Well, are you persnickety about success?

David Soler

That’s it. When I thought I had the equation to success cornered, bada-bing! A new book by Timothy Ferriss has blown it to pieces.

Following rationality as advised by French philosopher Descartes, we should assume the formula to become Bill Gates is hiding somewhere waiting to be discovered. And after reading Kenneth P. Morse, Descartes certainly made sense. According to Morse, a MIT professor, the key to success is creating like a god, leading like a king and working like a slave. Oh, and he adds, marrying a steady-salary partner. OK, I’ll see all of you on your Caribbean island next week.

But if that made life disappointingly lame, then comes along Mr. Ferriss with his recent New York Times best-selling book The 4-Hour Workweek and drops the bomb: Forget about working 100 hours a week as Morse suggests – now, you need to be sitting to get over what’s coming next – work just four hours a week and become successful. Are you serious? Yes, because you have to work those four hours like a pure genius and the rest . well, the rest is just couch potato time. You might wonder how can you work like a genius while surrounded by all this permanent info-crap. Simple. Start dumping e-mails, cell phones, networking and all that Internet poopery altogether. Ferriss envisions a return to a cave world with toilets and running water and a selective ignorance of as much information as possible. Be ignorant, be disconnected from the world. In one letter, be “W.” Hasn’t he been successful? Then you are next.

Man, his way to success is wreaking havoc in Silicon Valley. Everybody is talking about it, even in Harvard and MIT. Could he be right and all of us are just blind zombies working uselessly? I can’t leave you with that ambiguity.

Do you want to know the truth about his book? Three hundred and eight pages worth of pure BS. Ferriss is doing to Occam’s razor what Enron executives did with the Ponzi scheme. It’s a classic emperor without clothes situation. His mojo is based on simplicity and fueled by pure psychological vapor. That’s why his teachings are selling so well. Everybody knows impossible things are the most appealing to the public: Sept. 11 was an inside job, HIV is a myth, UFOs take regular breaks on planet Earth, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ferriss got some session with the fellow Joel Osteen – but we will leave Mr. Osteen’s steak to cook another day. For the meantime, I advise you to completely ignore Ferriss as the U.S. government did with Emperor Norton’s claims.

But even if Morse is closer to the truth, does his advice weigh 21 grams? The answer is also no. Sadly as it is, success can’t be bottled. As you might suspect, you can perfectly follow his advice all of your life and continue to check your electric bill every month. But that’s the beauty of it. Like love, success can’t be chosen. Like poker, triumph can’t be planned. Pummel me if you please, but success is just luck. You can definitively increase your odds, but they will continue to be that: odds. History is peppered with examples of it. George McClellan, the Union General during the Civil War was voted the most likely to succeed in his class of West Point. Lincoln replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant. Sylvester Stallone was voted by his high school peers the most likely to die in the electric chair, you know the rest.

David Soler is a biomedical sciences graduate and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].