Many recent comments on my 4-Hour Body review have largely missed the point of my article. I’ve grown tired of responding to each in turn, so I figured I’d write a summary response here.
Tim Ferriss appears to me to have a history of misrepresenting himself (see evidence in previous article). All of his claims to fame and tips for self-improvement should immediately be suspect as a result.
Ferriss advocates for ruthless, self-serving, borderline unethical tactics to get ahead in life. Yes, this is relevant to the kinds of tactics he promotes in his new book, The 4-Hour Body. It is relevant because there are two basic approaches to personal development:
- Build character.
- Create a character and play the part.
The first involves the cultivation of virtue and puts primary emphasis on becoming a better human being. The second involves putting on a show for others in order to gain power over them.
Here’s a different way of putting it:
- Recognizing the illusory, impermanent nature of personal and social reality, one becomes liberated, recognizes avenues for change, and dedicates one’s life to ending suffering in some capacity.
- Recognizing the illusory, impermanent nature of personal and social reality, one becomes more selfish, exploiting other people’s trust in conditioned reality to get ahead, creating much more suffering for others.
Most of us are a mix of the two. Ferriss’ philosophy is primarily of the second group. Not only this, but he is recruiting devotees to this line of thinking. In a nutshell, I think what he’s doing is evil.
Other common objections to my article:
“But he’s smart!” Darth Vader was pretty smart too. Smarts doesn’t equal good.
“But he’s interesting!” I’ll give you that. In fact, I’ll also say he’s really fit, and it does take a certain level of discipline to attain such levels of fitness. I still think his primary motivations are bad.
“But XYZ as described in his book works!” Three things:
- From the point of view of building character, many of his aims don’t make sense. For instance, I feel no compelling need to rapidly gain or lose weight. My BMI is in a healthy range, I exercise moderately in a way that works for me. Gaining or losing weight rapidly cultivates impatience and is usually motivated primarily by vanity, not sustainable health.
- Some of the aims make sense, but the timeline doesn’t. This is for two reasons: 1) he may be lying/exaggerating, 2) doing things more quickly is often dangerous or unsustainable. For instance, losing fat fast usually means you are messing up key systems in the body leading to yo-yo dieting in the long term. I’ve done mass gain diets and workouts before—they “worked” (I gained mass) but the side-effects weren’t worth it (continual DOMS, joint pain, injury, feeling bloated, expensive supplementation, lower energy levels, etc.). I also lost this muscle mass just as quickly as I gained it, and this program covered over deeper health issues (digestive problems). More importantly, this program was motivated by vanity. Once I fixed the underlying health problems, I gained 10 lbs of muscle in a year without any of the negative side-effects of the short-term aesthetics focused program using a health-first approach.
Balance, sanity, prioritizing long-term sustainability over short-term superficial results and becoming a somewhat more virtuous, less selfish/lustful/vain/ambitious person are important things to me and anyone else inhabiting this perspective. If you aren’t inhabiting this perspective, no doubt such values will seem quaint, boring, or clueless.
“Ferriss kickboxed Chuck Norris and Godzilla at the same time—I saw it on YouTube. What are your qualifications, punk?”
- Most or all of Ferriss’ qualifications are highly suspect. See previous article.
- If you are interested in Ferriss’ “qualifications,” my modest successes in life are unlikely to interest you.
Every moment of every day you are cultivating yourself. Whatever you do, you become better at. If you act on your vain motivations, you literally become more vain. If you act virtuously, you become more virtuous. See Zimbardo’s “banality of heroism.”
Thanks for reading and best of luck with your personal development goals.
UPDATE: Penelope Trunk illustrates the problem with The 4-Hour Body in this well-stated comment reply on her blog:
Have you read the 4-hour-body book?
Posted by Stef on December 27, 2010 at 8:28 am
Yeah, I have the book right here, actually. So I want to tell you that the most heartbreaking chapter is the one about sex. This chapter embodies everything that bugs me about Tim.
First, chapter assumes that all a woman wants is to have an orgasm. And that, therefore, we should all take bedroom lessons from Tim Ferriss.
I mean, look, I can hire a guy to give me an orgasm the way Tim is talking about. So on that level, the book is insulting because it assumes that I am not resourceful enough to earn the money and find the guy to hire — that I actually have to train a newbie instead of hiring a pro.
Second, I’d way rather have a guy who loves me and is good to me and honest and connected and not the king of giving me orgasms. I assumed it was common knowledge that women would rather be with a guy who is intimate and sweet and cares about her deeply than a whiz kid in bed.
And here is the money quote for why Tim treats winning in the bedroom like winning at kickboxing: “I was able to facilitate orgasms in every woman who acted as a test subject.” Note to Tim: Who cares? Life is not a contest. Women are not rats in your self-absorbed life experiment.
Also, side note to those who are taking Tim’s sex advice seriously: I am pretty sure that most women would rather the guy goes down on her, and loves it, and makes her feel comfortable being so vulnerable than that he gives her an orgasm. Because going down on a woman is so intimate, and selfless and caring. So maybe Tim should write a book where he goes down on 100 women for four hours a week each. It could be called Sexual Intimacy for Four-Hours A Week.
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