This week’s book isn’t about wealth-creation or lifestyle cultivation per se, but the topic is so universal and the author is so famous that I figured it merited a review. Besides, I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile.
What book am I talking about? The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, the lifehacking author of The 4-Hour Work Week. Ferriss built his reputation on teaching hyper-efficient success hacks. His first book dealt with finishing your job in the shortest possible amount of time; this follow-up book covers gaining muscle and losing fat with just two workouts a week.
If that description raises your red flag, you’re not alone. Ferriss is a controversial writer who has gained a large, devoted following. His fans say that the The 4-Hour Body is backed by science, his detractors say it’s pseudo-science. I’m not going to voice an opinion on the matter; I’ll leave it to you to make the call.
The 4-Hour Body goes into extensive detail about how to build muscle or lose weight, with separate sections for bodybuilding vs. weightloss. (I admittedly skimmed over the bodybuilding section, using the speed-reading tactic Ferriss teaches in the 4 Hour Work Week). I won’t delve into the details of Ferriss’ recommended workouts, but suffice to say that he goes into excruciating detail, complete with itineraries, photos and meal plans. The book is partly a step-by-step guide to exercise, and partly an explanation of the science (or pseudo-science?) behind it.
(Speaking of photos: the before/after photos in the bodybuilding section were so outrageous that I occasionally thought that the “before” looked better. The “before” photos looked like a healthy human being; the “after” looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger during his heydey.)
He also mentions a few life lessons, learned from working out, that have a universal application:
#1: The Start Up Is the Hardest Part
Motivation is usually on your side when you’re starting up. You’ve got the initial energy and enthusiasm to get the ball rolling.
But you get worn out quickly — in part because blasting from 0 to 60 is a lot tougher than racing from 60 to 120. Ferriss relates this to exercise, but the same is true for starting a business, growing your net worth, or – heck – even finding the courage to quit your job or to travel to a foreign country for the first time.
“Put in simple terms,” he says, “it takes (your body) longer to repair a 20-pound muscle than its 10-pound predecessor. The bigger and stronger you get, the less often you will go to the gym.”
#2: Avoid the Bike Shed Effect
Few people know how to build a nuclear silo. So if you announce that you’re going to build one, few people will offer you advice.
But everyone thinks they can construct a shed to store bicycles — regardless of whether or not they can actually do it. If you announce that you’re going to build a shed this weekend, everyone will come out of the woodwork with advice, much of it terrible advice. Ferriss calls this the “bike shed effect,” and reminds us to ignore it, no matter how self-assured the bike-shed-advice-givers sound.
#3: There’s a Breakthrough Moment
I’m sure you can all see the universal lesson in this quote from Neil Strauss, one of Ferriss’ workout test subjects:
“You only grow in those last reps when your muscles want to give up …”
“Like everything, there’s a pain period when you step outside your comfort zone. And just when it seems toughest, and you most want to give up … if you push through that moment, immediately afterward you break free.”
Should I Read It?
This Book is For You If: You’re interested in learning an efficient method for either bulking up or losing weight. You’re open to new, somewhat unusual ideas. You want a detailed, step-by-step guide complete with illustrations, recipes and schedules.
This Book is NOT For You If: You think Ferriss is full of it (he’s controversial!). Also, there’s an R-rated section in this book. Consider yourself warned.
Check out more reviews of The 4-Hour Body on Amazon.
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