Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!
Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it. I call this the “freedom multiplier.” Using this as our criterion, the 80-hour-per-week, $500,000-per-year investment banker is less “powerful” than the employed NR who works ¼ the hours for $40,000, but has complete freedom of when, where, and how to live. The former’s $500,000 may be worth less than $40,000 and the latter’s $40,000 worth more than $500,000 when we run the numbers and look at the lifestyle output of their money.
- When I was in data storage sales, my first gig out of college, I realized that most cold calls didn’t get to the intended person for one reason: gatekeepers. If I simply made all my calls from 8:00–8:30 A.M. and 6:00–6:30 P.M., for a total of one hour, I was able to avoid secretaries and book more than twice as many meetings as the senior sales executives who called from 9–5. In other words, I got twice the results for 1/8 the time.
- Among dietitians and nutritionists, there is some debate over the value of a calorie. Is a calorie a calorie, much like a rose is a rose? Is fat loss as simple as expending more calories than you consume, or is the source of those calories important? Based on work with top athletes, I know the answer to be the latter. What about income? Is a dollar is a dollar is a dollar? The New Rich don’t think so. Let’s look at this like a fifth-grade math problem. Two hardworking chaps are headed toward each other. Chap A moving at 80 hours per week and Chap B moving at 10 hours per week. They both make $50,000 per year. Who will be richer when they pass in the middle of the night? If you said B, you would be correct, and this is the difference between absolute and relative income. Absolute income is measured using one holy and inalterable variable: the raw and almighty dollar. Jane Doe makes $100,000 per year and is thus twice as rich as John Doe, who makes $50,000 per year. Relative income uses two variables: the dollar and time, usually hours. The whole “per year” concept is arbitrary and makes it easy to trick yourself. Let’s look at the real trade. Jane Doe makes $100,000 per year, $2,000 for each of 50 weeks per year, and works 80 hours per week. Jane Doe thus makes $25 per hour. John Doe makes $50,000 per year, $1,000 for each of 50 weeks per year, but works 10 hours per week and hence makes $100 per hour. In relative income, John is four times richer. Of course, relative income has to add up to the minimum amount necessary to actualize your goals. If I make $100 per hour but only work one hour per week, it’s going to be hard for me to run amuck like a superstar. Assuming that the total absolute income is where it needs to be to live my dreams (not an arbitrary point of comparison with the Joneses), relative income is the real measurement of wealth for the New Rich. The top New Rich mavericks make at least $5,000 per hour. Out of college, I started at about $5.
I realized that on a scale of 1–10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most would-be “holy sh*t, my life is over” disasters. Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare. On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect. In other words, I was risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10, and I could easily recover my baseline workaholic prison with a bit of extra work if I wanted to. This all equated to a significant realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than I was already putting forth. That is when I made the decision to take the trip and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. I started planning my adventures and eliminating my physical and psychological baggage. None of my disasters came to pass, and my life has been a near fairy tale since. The business did better than ever, and I practically forgot about it as it financed my travels around the world in style for 15 months.
- There have been several points in my life—among them, just before I was fired from TrueSAN and just before I escaped the U.S. to avoid taking an Uzi into McDonald’s—at which I saw my future as another fat man in a midlife-crisis BMW. I simply looked at those who were 15–20 years ahead of me on the same track, whether a director of sales or an entrepreneur in the same industry, and it scared the hell out of me. It was such an acute phobia, and such a perfect metaphor for the sum of all fears, that it became a pattern interrupt between myself and fellow lifestyle designer and entrepreneur Douglas Price. Doug and I traveled parallel paths for nearly five years, facing the same challenges and self-doubt and thus keeping a close psychological eye on each other. Our down periods seem to alternate, making us a good team. Whenever one of us began to set our sights lower, lose faith, or “accept reality,” the other would chime in via phone or e-mail like an A A sponsor: “Dude, are you turning into the bald fat man in the red BMW convertible?” The prospect was terrifying enough that we always got our asses and priorities back on track immediately. The worst that could happen wasn’t crashing and burning, it was accepting terminal boredom as a tolerable status quo. Remember—boredom is the enemy, not some abstract “failure.”
- Dreamlining will be fun, and it will be hard. The harder it is, the more you need it. To save time, I recommend using the automatic calculators and forms at www.fourhourblog.com. Refer to the model worksheet as you complete the following steps:
- What would you do if there were no way you could fail? If you were 10 times smarter than the rest of the world?Create two timelines—6 months and 12 months—and list up to five things you dream of having (including, but not limited to, material wants: house, car, clothing, etc.), being (be a great cook, be fluent in Chinese, etc.), and doing (visiting Thailand, tracing your roots overseas, racing ostriches, etc.) in that order. If you have difficulty identifying what you want in some categories, as most will, consider what you hate or fear in each and write down the opposite. Do not limit yourself, and do not concern yourself with how these things will be accomplished. For now, it’s unimportant. This is an exercise in reversing repression. Be sure not to judge or fool yourself. If you really want a Ferrari, don’t put down solving world hunger out of guilt. For some, the dream will be fame, for others fortune or prestige. All people have their vices and insecurities. If something will improve your feeling of self-worth, put it down. I have a racing motorcycle, and quite apart from the fact that I love speed, it just makes me feel like a cool dude. There is nothing wrong with that. Put it all down.
- Drawing a blank? For all their bitching about what’s holding them back, most people have a lot of trouble coming up with the defined dreams they’re being held from. This is particularly true with the “doing” category. In that case, consider these questions: What would you do, day to day, if you had $100 million in the bank? What would make you most excited to wake up in the morning to another day? Don’t rush—think about it for a few minutes. If still blocked, fill in the five “doing” spots with the following: one place to visitone thing to do before you die (a memory of a lifetime)one thing to do dailyone thing to do weeklyone thing you’ve always wanted to learn.
- What does “being” entail doing?Convert each “being” into a “doing” to make it actionable. Identify an action that would characterize this state of being or a task that would mean you had achieved it. People find it easier to brainstorm “being” first, but this column is just a temporary holding spot for “doing” actions. Here are a few examples: Great cook make Christmas dinner without helpFluent in Chinese have a five-minute conversation with a Chinese co-worker.
- What are the four dreams that would change it all? Using the 6-month timeline, star or otherwise highlight the four most exciting and/or important dreams from all columns. Repeat the process with the 12-month timeline if desired.
- Determine the cost of these dreams and calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for both timelines.If financeable, what is the cost per month for each of the four dreams (rent, mortgage, payment plan installments, etc.)? Start thinking of income and expense in terms of monthly cash flow—dollars in and dollars out—instead of grand totals. Things often cost much, much less than expected. For example, a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, fresh off the showroom floor at $260,000, can be had for $2,897.80 per month. I found my personal favorite, an Aston Martin DB9 with 1,000 miles on it, through eBay for $136,000—$2,003.10 per month. How about a Round-the-World trip (Los Angeles Tokyo Singapore Bangkok Delhi or Bombay London Frankfurt Los Angeles) for $1,399? Last, calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for realizing these dreamlines. This is how to do it: First, total each of the columns A, B, and C, counting only the four selected dreams. Some of these column totals could be zero, which is fine. Next, add your total monthly expenses x 1.3 (the 1.3 represents your expenses plus a 30% buffer for safety or savings). This grand total is your TMI and the target to keep in mind for the rest of the book. I like to further divide this TMI by 30 to get my TDI—Target Daily Income. I find it easier to work with a daily goal. Online calculators on our companion site do all the work for you and make this step a cinch. Chances are that the figure is lower than expected, and it often decreases over time as you trade more and more “having” for once-in-a-lifetime “doing.” Mobility encourages this trend. Even if the total is intimidating, don’t fret in the least. I have helped students get to more than $10,000 per month in extra income within three months.
- Determine three steps for each of the four dreams in just the 6-month timeline and take the first step now.I’m not a big believer in long-term planning and far-off goals. In fact, I generally set 3-month and 6-month dreamlines. The variables change too much and in-the-future distance becomes an excuse for postponing action. The objective of this exercise isn’t, therefore, to outline every step from start to finish, but to define the end goal, the required vehicle to achieve them (TMI, TDI), and build momentum with critical first steps. From that point, it’s a matter of freeing time and generating the TMI. First, let’s focus on those critical first steps. Define three steps for each dream that will get you closer to its actualization. Set actions—simple, well-defined actions—for now, tomorrow (complete before 11 A.M.) and the day after (again completed before 11 A.M.). Once you have three steps for each of the four goals, complete the three actions in the “now” column. Do it now. Each should be simple enough to do in five minutes or less. If not, rachet it down. If it’s the middle of the night and you can’t call someone, do something else now, such as send an e-mail, and set the call for first thing tomorrow. If the next stage is some form of research, get in touch with someone who knows the answer instead of spending too much time in books or online, which can turn into paralysis by analysis. The best first step, the one I recommend, is finding someone who’s done it and ask for advice on how to do the same. It’s not hard. Other options include setting a meeting or phone call with a trainer, mentor, or salesperson to build momentum. Can you schedule a private class or a commitment that you’ll feel bad about canceling? Use guilt to your advantage. Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!
- Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe. I would consider the best door-to-door salesperson efficient—that is, refined and excellent at selling door-to-door without wasting time—but utterly ineffective. He or she would sell more using a better vehicle such as e-mail or direct mail.
- Here are two truisms to keep in mind:
- Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
- Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
When I came across Pareto’s work one late evening, I had been slaving away with 15-hour days seven days per week, feeling completely overwhelmed and generally helpless. I would wake up before dawn to make calls to the United Kingdom, handle the U.S. during the normal 9–5 day, and then work until near midnight making calls to Japan and New Zealand. I was stuck on a runaway freight train with no brakes, shoveling coal into the furnace for lack of a better option. Faced with certain burnout or giving Pareto’s ideas a trial run, I opted for the latter. The next morning, I began a dissection of my business and personal life through the lenses of two questions: Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness? For the entire day, I put aside everything seemingly urgent and did the most intense truth-baring analysis possible, applying these questions to everything from my friends to customers and advertising to relaxation activities. Don’t expect to find you’re doing everything right—the truth often hurts. The goal is to find your inefficiencies in order to eliminate them and to find your strengths so you can multiply them. In the 24 hours that followed, I made several simple but emotionally difficult decisions that literally changed my life forever and enabled the lifestyle I now enjoy. The first decision I made is an excellent example of how dramatic and fast the ROI of this analytical fat-cutting can be: I stopped contacting 95% of my customers and fired 2%, leaving me with the top 3% of producers to profile and duplicate. Out of more than 120 wholesale customers, a mere 5 were bringing in 95% of the revenue. I was spending 98% of my time chasing the remainder, as the aforementioned.
5 ordered regularly without any follow-up calls, persuasion, or cajoling. In other words, I was working because I felt as though I should be doing something from 9–5. I didn’t realize that working every hour from 9–5 isn’t the goal; it’s simply the structure most people use, whether it’s necessary or not. I had a severe case of work-for-work (W4W), the most-hated acronym in the NR vocabulary. All, and I mean 100%, of my problems and complaints came from this unproductive majority, with the exception of two large customers who were simply world-class experts of the “here is the fire I started, now you put it out” approach to business. I put all of these unproductive customers on passive mode: If they ordered, great—let them fax in the order. If not, I would do absolutely no chasing: no phone calls, no e-mail, nothing. That left the two larger customers to deal with, who were professional ball breakers but contributed about 10% to the bottom line at the time.
- There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other: Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20). Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law). The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.
- Who are the 20% of people who produce 80% of your enjoyment and propel you forward, and which 20% cause 80% of your depression, anger, and second-guessing?Identify: Positive friends versus time-consuming friends: Who is helping versus hurting you, and how do you increase your time with the former while decreasing or eliminating your time with the latter?
- Who is causing me stress disproportionate to the time I spend with them? What will happen if I simply stop interacting with these people? Fear-setting helps here.
Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer without a clear list of priorities. You’ll just read unassociated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day. Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening. I don’t recommend using Outlook or computerized to-do lists, because it is possible to add an infinite number of items. I use a standard piece of paper folded in half three times, which fits perfectly in the pocket and limits you to noting only a few items. There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never. It just isn’t necessary if they’re actually high-impact. If you are stuck trying to decide between multiple items that all seem crucial, as happens to all of us, look at each in turn and ask yourself, If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?
Put a Post-it on your computer screen or set an Outlook reminder to alert you at least three times daily with the question: Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?I also use free time-tracking software called RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com) to alert me when I spend more than an allotted time on certain websites or programs often used to avoid the important (Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, etc.). It also summarizes your time use each week and compares your performance to peers.
- Use Parkinson’s Law to accomplish more in less time. Shorten schedules and deadlines to necessitate focused action instead of deliberation and procrastination.
Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources. Lifestyle design is based on massive action—output. Increased output necessitates decreased input. Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence. I challenge you to look at whatever you read or watched today and tell me that it wasn’t at least two of the four.
- For all four years of school, I had a policy. If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice test in a given class, I would bring 2–3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion. This served two important purposes: I learned exactly how the grader evaluated work, including his or her prejudices and pet peeves. The grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A. He or she would never consider giving me a bad grade without exceptional reasons for doing so, as he or she knew I’d come a’knocking for another three-hour visit. Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.
THE FIRST DAY our new Sales VP arrived at TrueSAN in 2001, he came into the all-company meeting and made an announcement in just about this many words: “I am not here to make friends. I have been hired to build a sales team and sell product, and that’s what I intend to do. Thanks.” So much for small talk. He proceeded to deliver on his promise. The office socializers disliked him for his no-nonsense approach to communication, but everyone respected his time. He wasn’t rude without reason, but he was direct and kept the people around him focused. Some didn’t consider him charismatic, but no one considered him anything less than spectacularly effective. I remember sitting down in his office for our first one-on-one meeting. Fresh off four years of rigorous academic training, I immediately jumped into explaining the prospect profiles, elaborate planning I’d developed, responses to date, and so forth and so on. I had spent at least two hours preparing to make this first impression a good one. He listened with a smile on his face for no more than two minutes and then held up a hand. I stopped. He laughed in a kind-hearted manner and said, “Tim, I don’t want the story. Just tell me what we need to do.” Over the following weeks, he trained me to recognize when I was unfocused or focused on the wrong things, which meant anything that didn’t move the top two or three clients one step closer to signing a purchase order. Our meetings were now no more than five minutes long. From this moment forward, resolve to keep those around you focused and avoid all meetings, whether in person or remote, that do not have clear objectives. It is possible to do this tactfully, but expect that some time wasters will be offended the first few times their advances are rejected. Once it is clear that remaining on task is your policy and not subject to change, they will accept it and move on with life. Hard feelings pass. Don’t suffer fools or you’ll become one. It is your job to train those around you to be effective and efficient. No one else will do it for you.
- E-mail communication should be streamlined to prevent needless back-and-forth. Thus, an e-mail with “Can you meet at 4:00 P.M.?” would become “Can you meet at 4:00 P.M.? If so If not, please advise three other times that work for you.” This “if … then” structure becomes more important as you check e-mail less often. Since I only check e-mail once a week, it is critical that no one needs a “what if?” answered or other information within seven days of a given e-mail I send. If I suspect that a manufacturing order hasn’t arrived at the shipping facility, for example, I’ll send an e-mail to my shipping facility manager along these lines: “Dear Susan … Has the new manufacturing shipment arrived? If so, please advise me on … If not, please contact John Doe at 555–5555 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (he is also CC’d) and advise on delivery date and tracking. John, if there are any issues with the shipment, please coordinate with Susan, reachable at 555–4444, who has the authority to make decisions up to $500 on my behalf. In case of emergency, call me on my cell phone, but I trust you two. Thanks.” This prevents most follow-up questions, avoids two separate dialogues, and takes me out of the problem-solving equation. Get into the habit of considering what “if … then” actions can be proposed in any e-mail where you ask a question. 3. Meetings should only be held to make decisions about a predefined situation, not to define the problem. If someone proposes that you meet with them or “set a time to talk on the phone,” ask that person to send you an e-mail with an agenda to define the purpose: That sounds doable. So I can best prepare, can you please send me an e-mail with an agenda? That is, the topics and questions we’ll need to address? That would be great. Thanks in advance.
- Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash.
- Using people to leverage a refined process multiplies production; using people as a solution to a poor process multiplies problems.
- Creating demand is hard. Filling demand is much easier. Don’t create a product, then seek someone to sell it to. Find a market—define your customers—then find or develop a product for them.
- I have been a student and an athlete, so I developed products for those markets, focusing on the male demographic whenever possible. The audiobook I created for college guidance counselors failed because I have never been a guidance counselor. I developed the subsequent speed-reading seminar after realizing that I had free access to students, and the business succeeded because—being a student myself—I understood their needs and spending habits. Be a member of your target market and don’t speculate what others need or will be willing to buy.
Danny Black rents dwarfs as entertainment for $149 per hour. How is that for a niche market? It is said that if everyone is your customer, then no one is your customer. If you start off aiming to sell a product to dog- or car-lovers, stop. It’s expensive to advertise to such a broad market, and you are competing with too many products and too much free information. If you focus on how to train German shepherds or a restoration product for antique Fords, on the other hand, the market and competition shrink, making it less expensive to reach your customers and easier to charge premium pricing. BrainQUICKEN was initially designed for students, but the market proved too scattered and difficult to reach. Based on positive feedback from student-athletes, I relaunched the product as BodyQUICK and tested advertising in magazines specific to martial artists and powerlifters. These are minuscule markets compared to the massive student market, but not small. Low media cost and lack of competition enabled me to dominate with the first “neural accelerator” in these niches.
- Danny Black rents dwarfs as entertainment for $149 per hour. How is that for a niche market? It is said that if everyone is your customer, then no one is your customer. If you start off aiming to sell a product to dog- or car-lovers, stop. It’s expensive to advertise to such a broad market, and you are competing with too many products and too much free information. If you focus on how to train German shepherds or a restoration product for antique Fords, on the other hand, the market and competition shrink, making it less expensive to reach your customers and easier to charge premium pricing. BrainQUICKEN was initially designed for students, but the market proved too scattered and difficult to reach. Based on positive feedback from student-athletes, I relaunched the product as BodyQUICK and tested advertising in magazines specific to martial artists and powerlifters. These are minuscule markets compared to the massive student market, but not small. Low media cost and lack of competition enabled me to dominate with the first “neural accelerator” in these niches. It is more profitable to be a big fish in a small pond than a small undefined fish in a big pond.
- People can dislike you—and you often sell more by offending some—but they should never misunderstand you. The main benefit of your product should be explainable in one sentence or phrase. How is it different and why should I buy it? ONE sentence or phrase, folks. Apple did an excellent job of this with the iPod. Instead of using the usual industry jargon with GB, bandwidth, and so forth, they simply said, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Done deal. Keep it simple and do not move ahead with a product until you can do this without confusing people.
- The bulk of companies set prices in the midrange, and that is where the most competition is. Pricing low is shortsighted, because someone else is always willing to sacrifice more profit margin and drive you both bankrupt. Besides perceived value, there are three main benefits to creating a premium, high-end image and charging more than the competition. Higher pricing means that we can sell fewer units—and thus manage fewer customers—and fulfill our dreamlines. It’s faster. Higher pricing attracts lower-maintenance customers (better credit, fewer complaints/questions, fewer returns, etc.). It’s less headache. This is HUGE. Higher pricing also creates higher profit margins. It’s safer. I personally aim for an 8–10x markup, which means a $100 product can’t cost me more than $10–12.50.
I will not pursue any product that takes more than three to four weeks to manufacture, and I recommend aiming for one to two weeks from order placement to shippable product.
Even though ingestibles have enabled my NR life, I would not wish them on anyone. Why not? You get 1,000 questions from every customer: Can I eat bananas with your product? Will it make me fart during dinner? On and on, ad nauseam. Choose a product that you can fully explain in a good online FAQ. If not, the task of travelling and otherwise forgetting about work becomes very difficult or you end up spending a fortune on call center operators.
- Some of the world’s best-known brands and products have been borrowed from someone or somewhere else. The basis for the energy drink Red Bull came from a tonic in Thailand, and the Smurfs were brought from Belgium. Pokémon came from the land of Honda. The band KISS made millions in record and concert sales, but the real profit has been in licensing—granting others the right to produce hundreds of products with their name and image in exchange for a percentage of sales. There are two parties involved in a licensing deal, and a member of the New Rich could be either. First, there is the inventor of the product,30 called the “licensor,” who can sell others the right to manufacture, use, or sell his or her product, usually for 3–10% of the wholesale price (usually around 40% off retail) for each unit sold. Invent, let someone else do the rest, and cash checks. Not a bad model. The other side of the equation is the person interested in manufacturing and selling the inventor’s product for 90–97% of the profit: the licensee. This is, for me and most NR, more interesting. Licensing is, however, dealmaking-intensive on both sides and a science unto itself. Creative contract negotiation is essential and most readers will run into problems if it’s their first product.
If you aren’t an expert, don’t sweat it. First, “expert” in the context of selling product means that you know more about the topic than the purchaser. No more. It is not necessary to be the best—just better than a small target number of your prospective customers. Let’s suppose that your current dreamline—to compete in the 1,150-mile Iditarod dogsledding race in Alaska—requires $5,000 to realize. If there are 15,000 readers and even 50 (0.33%) can be convinced of your superior expertise in skill X and spend $100 for a program that teaches it, that is $5,000. Bring on the Huskies. Those 50 customers are what I call the “minimal customer base”—the minimum number of customers you need to convince of your expertise to fulfill a given dreamline.
- Second, expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators. It’s important to learn how the PR pros phrase resume points and position their clients. The degree to which you personally need expert status also depends on how you obtain your content. There are three main options. Create the content yourself, often via paraphrasing and combining points from several books on a topic. Repurpose content that is in the public domain and not subject to copyright protection, such as government documents and material that predates modern copyright law. License content or compensate an expert to help create content. Fees can be one-time and paid up front or royalty-based (5–10% of net revenue, for example).
- Ask ten people if they would buy your product. Then tell those who said “yes” that you have ten units in your car and ask them to buy. The initial positive responses, given by people who want to be liked and aim to please, become polite refusals as soon as real money is at stake. To get an accurate indicator of commercial viability, don’t ask people if they would buy—ask them to buy. The response to the second is the only one that matters.
- The art of “undecision” refers to minimizing the number of decisions your customers can or need to make. Here are a few methods that I and other NR have used to reduce service overhead 20–80%: Offer one or two purchase options (“basic” and “premium,” for example) and no more. Do not offer multiple shipping options. Offer one fast method instead and charge a premium. Do not offer overnight or expedited shipping (it is possible to refer them to a reseller who does, as is true with all of these points), as these shipping methods will produce hundreds of anxious phone calls. Eliminate phone orders completely and direct all prospects to online ordering. This seems outrageous until you realize that success stories like Amazon.com have depended on it as a fundamental cost-saver to survive and thrive. Do not offer international shipments. Spending 10 minutes per order filling out customs forms and then dealing with customer complaints when the product costs 20–100% more with tariffs and duties is about as fun as headbutting a curb. It’s about as profitable, too. Some of these policies hint at what is perhaps the biggest time-saver of all: customer filtering.
- Remember Sherwood? His French shirts are beginning to move and he is itching to ditch the U.S. for a global walkabout. He has more than enough cash now but needs to escape constant supervision in the office before he can implement all the timesaving tools from Elimination and travel. He is a mechanical engineer and is producing twice as many designs in half the time since erasing 90% of his time-wasters and interruptions. This quantum leap in performance has been noticed by his supervisors and his value to the company has increased, making it more expensive to lose him. More value means more leverage for negotiations. Sherwood has been sure to hold back some of his productivity and efficiency so that he can highlight a sudden jump in both during a remote work trial period. Since eliminating most of his meetings and in-person discussions, he has naturally moved about 80% of all communication with his boss and colleagues to e-mail and the remaining 20% to phone. Not only this, but he has used “Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal,” to cut unimportant and repetitive e-mail volume in half. This will make the move to remote less noticeable, if at all noticeable, from a managerial standpoint. Sherwood is running at full speed with less and less supervision. Sherwood implements his escape in five steps, beginning on July 12 during the slow business season and lasting two months, ending with a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, for two weeks as a final test before bigger and bolder vagabonding plans. Step 1: Increase Investment First, he speaks with his boss on July 12 about additional training that might be available to employees. He proposes having the company pay for a four-week industrial design class to help him better interface with clients, being sure to mention the benefit to the boss and business (i.e., he’ll decrease intradepartmental back-and-forth and increase both client results and billable time). Sherwood wants the company to invest as much as possible in him so that the loss is greater if he quits. Step 2: Prove Increased Output Offsite Second, he calls in sick the next Tuesday and Wednesday, July 18 and 19, to showcase his remote working productivity. He decides to call in sick between Tuesday and Thursday for two reasons: It looks less like a lie for a three-day weekend and it also enables him to see how well he functions in social isolation without the imminent reprieve of the weekend. He ensures that he doubles his work output on both days, leaves an e-mail trail of some sort for his boss to notice, and keeps quantifiable records of what he accomplished for reference during later negotiations. Since he uses expensive CAD software that is only licensed on his office desktop, Sherwood installs a free trial of GoToMyPC remote access software so that he can pilot his office computer from home. Step 3: Prepare the Quantifiable Business Benefit Third, Sherwood creates a bullet-point list of how much more he achieved outside the office with explanations. He realizes that he needs to present remote working as a good business decision and not a personal perk. The quantifiable end result was three more designs per day than his usual average and three total hours of additional billable client time. For explanations, he identifies removal of commute and fewer distractions from office noise. Step 4: Propose a Revocable Trial Period Fourth, Sherwood confidently proposes an innocent one-day-per-week remote work trial period for two weeks. He plans a script in advance but does not make it a PowerPoint presentation or otherwise give it the appearance of something serious or irreversible. Sherwood knocks on his boss’s office door around 3 P.M. on a relatively relaxed Thursday, July 27, the week after his absence, and his script looks like the following. Stock phrases are underlined and footnotes explain negotiating points. Sherwood: Hi, Bill. Do you have a quick second? Bill: Sure. What’s up? Sherwood: I just wanted to bounce an idea off of you that’s been on my mind. Two minutes should be plenty. Bill: OK. Shoot. Sherwood: Last week, as you know, I was sick. Long story short, I decided to work at home despite feeling terrible. So here’s the funny part. I thought I would get nothing done, but ended up finishing three more designs than usual on both days. Plus, I put in three more billable hours than usual without the commute, office noise, distractions, etc. OK, so here’s where I’m going. Just as a trial, I’d like to propose working from home Mondays and Tuesdays for just two weeks. You can veto it whenever you want, and I’ll come in if we need to do meetings, but I’d like to try it for just two weeks and review the results. I’m 100% confident that I’ll get twice as much done. Does that seem reasonable? Bill: Hmm … What if we need to share client designs? Sherwood: There’s a program called GoToMyPC that I used to access the office computer when I was sick. I can view everything remotely, and I’ll have my cell phone on me 24/7. Sooooo … What do you think? Test it out starting next Monday and see how much more I get done? Bill: Ummm … OK, fine. But it’s just a test. I have a meeting in five and have to run, but let’s talk soon. Sherwood: Great. Thanks for the time. I’ll keep you posted on it all. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Sherwood didn’t expect to get two days per week approved. He asked for two so that, in the case his boss refused, he could ask for just one as a fallback position (bracketing). Why didn’t Sherwood go for five days remote per week? Two reasons. First, it’s a lot for management to accept off the bat. We need to ask for an inch and turn it into a foot without setting off panic alarms. Second, it is a good idea to hone your remote-working abilities—rehearse a bit—before shooting for the big time, as it decreases the likelihood of crises and screwups that will get remote rights revoked. Step 5: Expand Remote Time Sherwood ensures that his days outside of the office are his most productive to date, even minimally dropping in-office production to heighten the contrast. He sets a meeting to discuss the results with his boss on August 15 and prepares a bullet-point page detailing increased results and items completed compared to in-office time. He suggests upping the ante to four days per week remote for a two-week trial, fully prepared to concede to three days if need be. Sherwood: It really turned out even better than I expected. If you look at the numbers, it makes a lot of business sense, and I’m enjoying work a lot more now. So, here we are. I’d like to suggest, if you think it makes sense, that I try four days a week for another two-week trial. I was thinking that coming in Friday would make sense to prepare for the coming week, but we could do whichever day you prefer. Bill: Sherwood, I’m really not sure we can do that. Sherwood: What’s your main concern? Bill: It seems like you’re on your way out. I mean, are you going to quit on us? Second, what if everyone wants to do the same? Sherwood: Fair enough. Good points. First, to be honest, I was close to quitting before, with all the interruptions and commute and whatnot, but I’m actually feeling great now with the change in routine. I’m doing more and feel relaxed for a change. Second, no one should be allowed to work remotely unless they can show increased productivity, and I’m the perfect experiment. If they can show it, however, why not let them do it on a trial basis? It lowers costs for the office, increases productivity, and makes employees happier. So, what do you say? Can I test it out for two weeks and come in Fridays to take care of the office stuff? I’ll still document everything, and you, of course, have the right to change your mind at any point. Bill: Man, you are an insistent one. OK, we’ll give it a shot, but don’t go blabbing about it. Sherwood: Of course. Thanks, Bill. I appreciate the trust. Talk to you soon. Sherwood continues to be productive at home and maintains his lower in-office performance. He reviews the results with his boss after two weeks and continues with four remote days per week for an additional two weeks until Tuesday, September 19, when he requests a full-time remote trial of two weeks while he is visiting relatives out of state. Sherwood’s team is in the middle of a project that requires his expertise, and he is prepared to quit if his boss refuses. He realizes that, just as you want to negotiate ad pricing close to deadlines, getting what you want often depends more on when you ask for it than how you ask for it. Though he would prefer not to quit, his income from shirts is more than enough to fund his dream-lines of Oktoberfest and beyond. His boss acquiesces and Sherwood doesn’t have to use his threat of quitting. He goes home that evening and buys a $524 round-trip ticket, less than one week’s shirt sales, to Munich for Oktoberfest. Now he can implement all the time-savers possible and hack out the inessentials. Somewhere between drinking wheat beer and dancing in lederhosen, Sherwood will get his work done in fine form, leaving his company better off than prior to 80/20 and leaving himself all the time in the world.
It can be effective to take a longer period of absence up front in what some NR have termed the “hourglass” approach, so named because you use a long proof-of-concept up front to get a short remote agreement and then negotiate back up to full-time out of the office. Here’s what it looks like. Use a preplanned project or emergency (family issue, personal issue, relocation, home repairs, whatever) that requires you to take one or two weeks out of the office. Say that you recognize you can’t just stop working and that you would prefer to work instead of taking vacation days. Propose how you can work remotely and offer, if necessary, to take a pay cut for that period (and that period only) if performance isn’t up to par upon returning. Allow the boss to collaborate on how to do it so that he or she is invested in the process. Make the two weeks “off” the most productive period you’ve ever had at work. Show your boss the quantifiable results upon returning, and tell him or her that—without all the distractions, commute, etc.—you can get twice as much done. Suggest two or three days at home per week as a trial for two weeks. Make those remote days ultraproductive. Suggest only one or two days in the office per week. Make those days the least productive of the week. Suggest complete mobility—the boss will go for it.
While entrepreneurs have the most trouble with Automation, since they fear giving up control, employees get stuck on Liberation because they fear taking control. Resolve to grab the reins—the rest of your life depends on it.
In the experience of those I’ve interviewed, it takes two to three months just to unplug from obsolete routines and become aware of just how much we distract ourselves with constant motion. Can you have a two-hour dinner with Spanish friends without getting anxious? Can you get accustomed to a small town where all businesses take a siesta for two hours in the afternoon and then close at 4:00 P.M.? If not, you need to ask, Why? Learn to slow down. Get lost intentionally. Observe how you judge both yourself and those around you. Chances are that it’s been a while. Take at least two months to disincorporate old habits and rediscover yourself without the reminder of a looming return flight.
Too much free time is no more than fertilizer for self-doubt and assorted mental tail-chasing. Subtracting the bad does not create the good. It leaves a vacuum. Decreasing income-driven work isn’t the end goal. Living more—and becoming more—is.
- But This Is What I Always Wanted! How Can I Be Bored?! Don’t freak out and fuel the fire. This is normal among all high-performers who downshift after working hard for a long time. The smarter and more goal-oriented you are, the tougher these growing pains will be. Learning to replace the perception of time famine with appreciation of time abundance is like going from triple espressos to decaf. But there’s more! Retirees get depressed for a second reason, and you will too: social isolation.