The 4-Hour Workweek: 10 Years Later


Fred Perrotta

Last week, a writer who was doing a story on direct-to-consumer brands raising venture capital, asked why Tortuga didn't raise any money. In 2009 and 2010 when Jeremy and I were starting the company, I was living in San Francisco and working at Google. Even as a first-time entrepreneur, I probably had enough connections and trust to have raised a tiny seed round.

Raising VC never really occurred to us. Or, if it did, it was quickly dismissed. Even if we did consider it, we probably wouldn't have had the confidence in our idea to make it happen. 2009 was different than 2017. Now, "direct to consumer [product type]" is a pitch. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. At the time, only a tiny handful of the earliest v-commerce companies, like Bonobos and Warby Parker, even existed.

The biggest reason we never considered VC is that it wasn't part of the playbook we were trying to run. Before the trip that inspired Tortuga, Jeremy and I had both recently read Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek. That was our blueprint, our playbook.

Ferriss' advice on productivity was (and remains) excellent, but we were copying his ideas on starting a product company.

We wanted "passive income," not an IPO.

I was bored and disengaged at Google. I wanted something else, something better.

Jeremy was in film school and looking for a way to make money without relying on low-paying grunt work or the fickleness of the industry.

Our goal then was an automated, one-product business that made enough for us both to live off of. I envisioned freedom from a traditional workplace without a real idea for how I might "fill the void."

Would we have failed without guidance from The 4-Hour Workweek (4HWW)? I'm not sure we would have even started.

While we eventually strayed from the book's guidance in creating our first product, the book gave us the confidence that this was possible and provided the training wheels to get started.

Without 4HWW, I may have stayed at Google or at least within the tech and startup ecosystem. Or I may have pursued a service business like I did as a freelancer on the side while starting Tortuga. Or I may have gone the route of a tech startup founder. Looking back, none of these options is as appealing as running Tortuga today.

A few years ago, Jeremy and I did a podcast about the 4HWW on its eighth anniversary. Just last week, I saw that Ferriss had posted an episode of his own podcast revisiting the book ten years later.

In the episode Ferriss says that he hasn't updated the book more because he's afraid of messing with the alchemy of it. Books are also an unideal way of offering real-time information. The principles in the book are still spot on, even if the tools are outdated. A podcast or blog is a far better medium for the latest tactics and software tools. That's what Ferriss does with his podcast and what I try to do on this blog in writing about remote work and v-commerce.

At the ten-year anniversary, I want to congratulate Tim Ferriss on writing an important book and to thank him for providing the spark that we used to start Tortuga.

For more thoughts on the 4HWW at the ten-year mark, listen to this recent episode of the Tropical MBA podcast.