Altered States

Cal Newport and Tim Ferriss Revisit The 4-Hour Workweek (Plus: The Allure and The Void of Remote Work, Unsustainable Behaviors, Burning Out, The Cult of Productivity, and More) (#594)

Illustration via 99designs

Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to deconstruct world-class performers to tease out the routines, habits, et cetera that you can apply to your own life.

In this episode, past podcast guest Cal Newport interviews me for an article he ended up writing for The New Yorker titled “Revisiting ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’: How Tim Ferriss’s 2007 manifesto anticipated our current moment of professional upheaval.”

Who is Cal? Cal Newport ( is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University who previously earned his PhD from MIT. His scholarship focuses on the theory of distributed systems, while his general-audience writing explores intersections of culture and technology.

Cal is the author of seven books, including, most recently, Deep Work, Digital Minimalism, and A World Without Email. He is also a contributing writer for The New Yorker and the host of the Deep Questions podcast.

You can find my interview with Cal at, and you can find the 2007 talk at SXSW that launched everything at

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.

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#594: Cal Newport and Tim Ferriss Revisit The 4-Hour Workweek (Plus: The Allure and The Void of Remote Work, Unsustainable Behaviors, Burning Out, The Cult of Productivity, and More)

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


If you’d like to hear the last conversation I had with Cal Newport, lend an ear to our conversation here in which we discussed lightning bolt lessons from Steve Martin, living the deep life, sharpening skills, honing funny bones, fresh thoughts on slow productivity, eschewing the temptations of social media, contemplations on moral frameworks, Cal’s 30-day digital minimalism declutter, and much more.

#568: Cal Newport — The Eternal Pursuit of Craftsmanship, the Deep Life, Slow Productivity, and a 30-Day Digital Minimalism Challenge


  • Connect with Cal Newport:

Website | Blog | YouTube


  • Some of the first cracks in my post-Princeton life that hinted at the unsustainable nature of Silicon Valley workaholic culture and led me toward a realization that The 4-Hour Workweek might be a book worth writing. [07:36]
  • The fatal flaw in my first startup that ensured I wouldn’t be able to easily sell it. [17:22]
  • A snapshot of Silicon Valley in the early 2000s: a prototyping and testing ground for new technologies and a hotbed of hustling. [22:16]
  • Cal says I mentioned email four times in the opening six minutes of my first South by Southwest talk. In retrospect, what bigger problems did this portend, and how was my approach somewhat transgressive, considering the audience? [26:44]
  • Defying the cult of productivity to be more effective than efficient with the 80/20 principle (aka Pareto’s law). [39:43]
  • On slow productivity and playing your own game while understanding the rules by which other people play theirs.[44:33]
  • How the launch of this podcast was, in a sense, a reexamination of what my own game was after working on The 4-Hour Chef turned out to be more a labor of labor than love. [47:57]
  • My mindset going into that first South by Southwest speech in 2007 and how I tried to make the pain points of efficiency relatable rather than presenting them as judgment against my go-getting, startup-hustling audience. [50:41]
  • If prioritizing your own self-care inconveniences other people from time to time, so be it. (To the people pleasers in the audience, please reread that last sentence to yourself a little louder until it sticks.) [53:50]
  • After the South by Southwest speech, what was the general reception like? What points seemed to resonate most with people? [56:44]
  • How a mutual friend put concepts presented in The 4-Hour Workweek to work and changed his own life, how some of those concepts that were radical when the book was published 15 years ago are now considered commonplace, and which concepts I hope continue to gain momentum. [1:00:56]
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly made the work-disrupting scenarios posited in The 4-Hour Workweek viable alternatives to the status quo rather than intangible, impossible thought experiments, though some challenges remain. [1:06:40]
  • Pop culture references to The 4-Hour Workweek and common misinterpretations of its primary tenets that come from casual skimming and second-hand sources. [1:10:38]
  • Digging deeper, why do so many readers who pick up the bestselling productivity and time management books seem to miss the points they’re really trying to make? [1:15:57]
  • Cal’s optimistic parting thoughts that society is finally catching up with what The 4-Hour Workweek was trying to convey. [1:20:58]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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