A moderately interesting look at 4-hour phenomenon Tim Ferriss in the NY Times. One gets the sense that although there’s clearly some energy here – it’s hard not to respect someone who goes to such lengths – all the optimization and efficiency talk is actually code for self-justification (and a very inflated anthropology). It sounds as though Ferris has simply replaced his own identity-driven obsession with business with a similar one with self – which strikes this blogger as different versions of the same thing. Plus, does anyone else think that the urgency/anxiety about time is a tad contradictory? Meaning, if there’s a specific ‘purpose’ or ‘utility’ to ‘living in the moment’, one wonders if the moment is actually being lived in… So it may not exactly be a newsflash, but there seems to be a lot of ‘hows’ and very few ‘whys’ being explored here, i.e. precious little wisdom. Which is obviously not the point, anyway. But, hey, bro, I haven’t read the books, and I certainly don’t want to be a hater:

A Twitter-age savant, [Ferriss has] made a career of teaching readers how to achieve personal goals using the least amount of time and effort. His occasionally off-the-wall, even polarizing, lessons include how to gain 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days, master a foreign language in three to six months and increase fat loss by placing ice packs on your neck. In freewheeling YouTube videos, he proffers advice on how to use chopsticks, survive a physical attack, tie a Windsor knot, deftly remove the shell of a hard-boiled egg and efficiently pack a suitcase (complete with odor- and bacteria-resistant underwear).

Appealing to a generation awash in sound bites, Twitter and the rapid-fire exchange of information, he holds out the promise that if you follow a simple set of dictates, it is possible to “smash fear,” “learn anything” and “have it all.” In geek speak, he’s a “life hacker,” one who has collected both ardent devotees and harsh disparagers. In 2008, Wired magazine asked its readers to vote for self-promoter of the year. The winner? “Timothy Ferriss by a landslide,” the article said.

 Consumers, particularly Silicon Valley types, were awakening to the idea that there would always be more information than attention or hours in the day. Mr. Ferriss, positioning himself somewhere between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk, offered solutions to what he calls the “time-famine phenomenon.” In the process, he exposed cracks in the seemingly sacred Baby Boomer model of life, where work is supreme and travel and hobbies are deferred until retirement. “Managing that pain and finding solutions was a very high priority for people at the exact same time my book came out,” Mr. Ferriss said last month while driving to his house in San Francisco.

“It’s ironic that he wrote ‘The 4-Hour Workweek,’ ” said Garrett Camp, 32, StumbleUpon’s founder and chief executive. “He’s the exact opposite of that.” 

It dawned on a young Tim Ferriss that income had little value without time. So he decided to rethink his business. He bought a one-way ticket to Europe hoping to gain some clarity. Instead he had a nervous breakdown. “Because I did not know what to do with myself,” Mr. Ferriss said, sitting on the carpeted floor of a quiet hallway in the convention center. “My identity and my activities had been so solely occupied by business for so long.” 

In a review of “The 4-Hour Body” in The New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote that the book “reads as if The New England Journal of Medicine had been hijacked by the editors of the SkyMall catalog.” Mr. Ferriss’s vibe, he said, is: “I’m Superbad, bro, and I have dimples. You’re a mole person who, if you become an angel investor in my books, might someday touch the hem of my Speedo.”

Mr. Ferriss said he’s learned he can’t please everyone and that if he tried, he’d be boring — and insane. So he focuses on the fans and embraces the adage, “Living well is the best revenge.” He appears to be doing so. This year, he plans to introduce a project to build 100 libraries or schools in 100 hours in developing countries. He’s also exploring television opportunities, studying screenwriting, learning Arabic, training for an ultra-marathon and striving to perfect a back flip. Another thing he’d like to hack: a relationship. He’s dating but doesn’t have a girlfriend. “A bunch of land with a big dog and a wife and a kid or two would be nice,” he said.

Despite his efficiency, he feels a sense of urgency. “I feel like I could very well be 14 minutes into my 15-minutes of fame,” he said, sitting on a deck at the convention center in the dying sun. When a reporter suggested he didn’t really believe that, he said he didn’t take it for granted. “Even in the best-case scenario of not having something intervene and cut your life short, you don’t have that much time,” he said. “I do think that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.”