Monthly Archives: February 2011

How to Start a 4-Hour Workweek Business; Phase 1: Idea Generation

*I want to be real here and document what I am going through to make this happen. I’ve seen the other end and there is definitely a pot of gold, but I haven’t witnessed the storm that caused the rainbow that led to riches (that was probably the cheesiest metaphor, ever).

People in New York, where I have lived since August 2010, LOVE to ask what you do. It’s often the second question in conversation subsequent to “what’s your name?” This city and I make a great match because I LOVE to befuddle people. Their eyebrows furrow or lift when I say,”I’m working toward owning a business that runs itself so I work less.” This response has actually been a conversation deterrent. While some people become extremely intrigued, others become uncomfortable. So, I usually opt for response option B: I shrug my shoulders, state whatever activity I am doing at that moment, then turn the question on them … “I drink beer; I do yoga; I pay panhandlers on subway trains. What do you do?”

As stated in one of my previous posts, I am starting an automated cash flow business according to Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek model. My objective is to create wealth, and by wealth I don’t just mean monetary assets. I mean, in part, value, making money to fund dreams, create more time, freedom, and excitement. Some may characterize my plight as unreasonable or unrealistic, but that to me is good news. I want to be misunderstood; I want to be different. The minute that I am on the same track as anyone else, life becomes for me too original.

Preliminary Steps to Takeoff

Supporting Myself … the Stressrant Way

By the time the 8 p.m. rush struck with merciless vengeance (customers lined up out the door and crowded around the bar), forks and knives rained from my hands, glasses of cote du rhone and viognier poured liberally into glasses, dessert menus flew into place. And much to my chagrin, a list of uncompleted tasks still plagued my frantic mind: greet table 60, ask if they want bottled or tap water, if bottled, flat or sparkling; put ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard into ramekins for table 61’s burger; tell table 53 about the artisanal cheese plate, the beef shank ravioli, and the milk braised pork shoulder specials; sneak to the bathroom and breathe into a paper bag. Working at a restaurant can be far from “restful,”which is why I have termed it the stressrant. At the pinnacle of it’s patron hour, my heart pounds with the anxiety to please all 20 people I could be waiting on at a time, each with their own needs. And the other night, just as I was running from table to table, I body slam a new customer who was seating himself in my section. When I turned around to apologize for hockey checking him in the chest I see it’s … Robert Redford. But he, of course, was very kind and understanding of my unruly elbows.

While many are quick to criticize the serving industry, I keep coming up with reasons to love it and be thankful for what it provides me. I by now have not only garnered mad multitasking skills but also crazy napkin folding abilities that could win me a lot of money were there some state-wide competition. Additionally, working in the service industry pays my bills and gives me superfluous free time to work on my business. I, for now, feel well supported going after what I want … and what exactly would that be?

Defining What I Want Through Dreamlining

It’s a creative time line; it’s practical; it’s … hard! The most difficult thing about dreamlining for me is being okay with my dreams. I’ve had to take a deep breath, look at what I planned out for myself in the next six months to a year, and just deal with the overwhelming fact that these things, these crazy things, are about to become real. And as I take the steps to achieve them, I feel I am living them already. The basic process is simple: ask yourself, what does having/being imply doing? And the worksheets can all be found here: Read through the page, download the Dreamline worksheet, fill it out, then put it on your wall.

Where I am Now … Finding the Muse

So, this is where I am … admittedly, stuck. According to Tim, the goal is to come up with a product that can’t require more than one day of management a week… to own a business and spend no time on it. At this point, my paralysis is not caused by a lack of ability to come up with an idea, it’s that I’ve come up with TOO many ideas. I have generated a list of over 30 ideas, some of them feasible, some of them not, and am now in the process of scaling that list down. Some of these ideas I came up with just by observing people at the restaurant or at airports or on the subway (creepy I know), others occur to me at random, many of them I derived from Tim’s strategy in the 4-hour Workweek:

First, identify which niche markets you belong to; what skills, talents, or habits do you have? What are you hobbies? What social groups do you belong to and understand? When you find your market, find/develop a product that suits their needs.

Remember this is brainstorming, so literally anything goes. Here’s my market list, feels like you’re about to know a lot about me:

1. Techie traveler

2. Yoga/general fitness practitioner

3. Writer/journalist

4. Photographer

5. Coffee drinker

6. Female shopper

7. Waitress

8. Former college student

9. Organic foods eater

10. New music junkie

11. Slow traveler; person who spends significant time living in one country instead of visiting several

Well, I have in fact reduced my list to ten ideas, but none of them is the “perfect model,” and I am wondering if there is one. But here’s what’s holding me up:

1. One of my product ideas is already patented and would require a licensing agreement to go forward with. I know absolutely nothing about that, and it seems it would be complicated. Even if it were complicated, would it be worth it?

2. Another product could really work, but Tim suggests testing the product sales online (I’ll explain later) to see if you have something that’s even going to sell before you move to development stage. Problem: it’s a seasonal product that would best sell during summer time. It’s winter. If I product tested now, would the statistics be good sales indicators if now is not necessarily time when consumers purchase this product? Do I even want to go with a seasonal product? I guess I could market it in Australia and the US so it would sell year-round.

3. If the product is a website, how do you know that people would even be interested without investing in setting it up?


Goal to resolve these issues: Talk to entrepreneurs, at least 20, to understand how to get beyond this point. I will be reporting their advice here, at

*All information stated as fact pertaining to cash flow businesses, muses etc. is derived from Tim’s ideas in the 4-Hour Workweek and on his blog. I am merely the inexperienced sitar player plucking the notes on the pages.


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