Sunday, November 11, 2007

Useful Anti-Tech advice from a Comic Book Hero

I knew somebody would do it, and it had to be a good-looking heterosexual young guy with a Princeton education.

Once again, I've been procrastinating by (not only writing this blog) but entering the Parallel Universe of the New York Times Style Section. This may be my downfall, but it's also my great amusement. Today, the lead story was about Timothy Ferriss, 30, who has been resonating with techies everywhere with his book The 4- Hour Workweek. As the article by Alex Williams notes, the Ferriss grabber is his insistence that in a tenth of the usual week, (a twentieth of the workweek for normal workaholics) you can rake in big bucks as an entrepreneur and use the rest of your time to--as he does--jaunt around the world pursuing
exotic experiences and achievements like competitive Chinese kickboxing, world-championship cage fighting, and hurling in Ireland.

How does the magical Mister Ferriss accomplish all this? By going low-tech. Nix instant-messaging, outsource email, forget texting, dump news-collecting and eschew your digital photos and iPod. Shut down your Flickr, Twitter, You Tube and Facebook accounts. Delegate everything except, well, going to the bathroom.

As I was reading the article, which does read a bit like a superhero comic book, I truly questioned whether this was for real. Those old enough to remember the TV show "The Monkees" know it's possible to set up an irresistible success scenario, and then go recruit somebody to fill the roles. Timothy Ferriss is the kind of near-caricature who conquers the oppressors to live free and save the world. Heaven knows, everyone with a Blackberry understands its compulsion, and while unable to completely buck the machines cold-turkey, secretly longs for the days when "reachable" meant having an answering machine on your (corded) telephone. Well, maybe not. Most tech addicts weren't born then.

I finally conceded that this guy could be real when I (I'll admit it) watched a video on his website of his performance in the international tango competition in Buenos Aires. This could have been faked. But there was this blond guy, serious-faced as any tango master must be, swooping his leg in fashionable semi-circles on a dance floor populated with other somber-lipped couples with numbers pinned on their backs. The allure isn't the tango, exactly, but the idea of the tango; the notion that you can grab life's worthwhile and exciting offerings just for the reaching. Break free of your shackles and chains! Now jump on a jet and cavort at Carnival in Rio! Track wilderbeasts in Kenya! Go to
Pamploma and cheer the running of the bulls!

Perhaps Mr. Ferriss presents us the running of the bull. One can only escape responsibility if one has few conventional ties--like a spouse with a place-bound job, children who go to school, a religious community with needs, or elderly parents to care for. These very well might be more significant and fulfilling pursuits than the accomplishments Mr. Ferriss enjoys as a "professional polymath." And most people have less spectacular success in their money-earning; Mr. Ferriss claims his vitamin supplement business now runs via the self-sufficiency of underlings, and "kicks off a high five-figure personal income every month," freeing him to gallavant to Scotland, Sardinia, Vienna and Bratislava (over the past two months alone).

Still, there's a useful lesson here: You don't need all the gadgets and gizmos. You don't need to be available (except to the kids and elderly parents) 24/7. If you want to communicate, you can pick up the telephone. If you want to jet to Rio, then schedule it. Every day is a possibility, and on the day Timothy Ferris taped a pilot for an adventure TV show in Japan, you probably sat at home reading the Sunday Style section. And as for me, better to be writing my book than reading about some guy whose greatest pride, evidently, is what he can do...for himself.


  1. How sad. What a pathetic existence. To be only responsible for, to only answer to, to live to indulge only ... oneself. So lonely. I haven't yet visited his website, and might even choose not to do so, for that would be indulging HIM. As for me, I prefer to live in and be of the world, to try to make this world a better place for my having been given the gift of being in this place at this time, having also been blessed with the bonuses of being a wife and mother and friend. I treasure my connections and am happy to use whatever means I can in order to maintain and strengthen those connections (even email!). And it's because of these gifts of connectiveness that I know I am loved and cherished and that someday I will be missed and mourned. Poor Timothy, not a hero to me. One day may he too discover the Real in Life.

  2. What DoubleTee said about a lot of that. OTOH, it is nice to disconnect sometimes, but not to indulge in oneself; simply to indulge with those friends and connections in the real world, without distractions.

  3. We agree, then that real OTHER people are nicer than narcissism...but I can't help but feel there's also something valuable about making your life as close to peak as you can. I wouldn't mind being able to tango, or see the world, or try out new and different activities. I just don't want to give up primary attention to my family, my religion, my friends and my obligations in order to do them. Or maybe I'm just rationalizing why I don't make more excitement happen? Laziness??

  4. You,LAZY??? As they used to say in the old country (China?): Sha!! And puhleeze,dear light, I who have shared many peak experiences with you will say only this - I feel that you are right in focusing first on your "family, religion, friends, and obligations" ... BUT GUESS WHAT? You can still learn to tango or hula or rock-climb or seek out new horizons and adventures. Methinks your current long-term project sometimes mucks up your mood in a morass of melancholy, especially on S.A.D. days like we've had these past weeks, when the bright light you seek is nowhere to be found and you are forced to plant your bod in front of the unwelcome bright light of the computer screen.

    It's been evident for many weeks/months that as capable as you are in doing this difficult task and as necessary and vital it is for you to do it, it has been at the sacrifice of your "me-time" as evidenced by our increasingly rare play-dates. I have been remiss in rescuing you, even if only for a $$-Tree hour or two, so we must remedy this. What say you? Are ya up for a "car"-aoke session or two? Or better yet...a DVD tango lesson? Olay olay olay olay, think hot-hot-hot, NOT not-not-not...