Tim Ferriss: 4-Hour-Hero or just another asshat?

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Tim Ferriss books

By Jason Braun and Kevin Eagan

Tim Ferriss is a polarizing figure. Some see him as a brilliant salesman and self-promoter while others think he is overhyped and self-absorbed.

I fall into the latter group. There is something about Tim Ferriss I can’t stand: he’s smarmy and arrogant in his approach. He promotes dubious “hacks” over doing authentic work.

So I got caught up in a conversation about Tim Ferriss with my friend and fellow blogger Jason Braun, who digs Ferriss’ work. (Readers may remember Jason from his post “Naked as a caveman, except for the tools.”) Jason recently lent me his copy of Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup, and that book got us talking about promotion and authenticity.

Handing back Jason’s copy The $100 Startup, I said I buy into Guillebeau’s approach more than Tim Ferris’s because Guillebeau ties it back to ethics and legacy. Then I said this: “Ferriss’ bullshit in last month’s Wired about becoming a superhuman through grey market drugs bothers the fuck out of me. It’s gimmicky, dishonest, and goes against the point of eastern philosophy and his idea of simplicity. I’m starting to realize that he’s a shill, and I’m tired of shills. Instead of taking random pills to wait and see what happens, he should have sat down for an hour to do some real work.”

Fast-forward to later that day, Jason wrote me on Facebook:

Jason: Picking up from our conversation about Tim Ferris before: I mean aren’t you at least a little impressed with the obsession that drove him to do drugs not for getting high and acting stupid, but to become part cyborg and greater than he was before? I mean, he was looking for the philosopher’s stone!

Kevin: My deal with Tim Ferriss isn’t all of his content, but his approach. He is very successful at what he does, I’ll give him that. But a lot of what he writes about is found in other books. In terms of his mix of Eastern and Zen philosophy and seeking fulfillment in work, I’ve read this before. You should check out Leo Babauta, for example. His whole idea is minimalism and breaking life down to the essential for self-fulfillment…so similar to Ferriss, but I guess I just like Babauta’s more subtle approach it’s more authentic–he’s like Yoda instead of the Death Star.

Jason: Just don’t hate me when I’m famous, Death Star or no. The easiest way might be the best way, and that’s what Ferriss does. I’d argue there’s no such thing as authenticity, and not every blog post or book needs to be a manifesto.

Kevin: I guess, but I think there’s something to ethics, legitimacy, and authenticity, however you define it. If everyone did what Ferriss did we’d all be loud asshats blowing things up instead of working together.

So readers, what do you think? Check out some of Ferriss’ work if you’re not familiar. Is he a 4-hour-genius, or another self-absorbed flash in the pan?

Oh, and Jason and I are still working this idea out. We’ll be back with more of our conversation soon.

About Kevin Eagan

Kevin Eagan (@criticalmargins) is a freelance editor, writer, and teacher who lives in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. In addition to writing about book technology and teaching college students how to write, Kevin works as an associate editor for punctum books. Previously, he was the books editor for Blogcritics. You can also follow him on Google+ or check out his professional website, KevinThomasEagan.com.

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