Apply the 40 Plus Formula to Advance Your Career

What’s the 40 Plus Formula?

It’s a formula I found in Brian Tracy’s Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life (Affiliate Link). From the book:

Begin today to apply the “40 Plus Formula” to your work and your career. this formula says that you work 40 hours per week in the United States for survival. If you work only 40 hours per week—if you work only the number of hours that are required of you—then all you will ever do is survive. You will tread water financially. you will make enough to pay your bills and perhaps a little more besides, but you will never get ahead and you will never be successful.

According to the 40 Plus Formula, every hour that you put in over 40 hours on your job, or on yourself, is an investment in your future success. you can tell where you are going to be five years from now by simply looking at how many hours per week you put in on your job. Every hour over 40 that you invest in gettin gmore results for your employer and your customers adds up and contributed to your long-term success.

If you work 45 to 50 hours per week, you give yourself an edge over your co-workers. If you work 55 to 60 hours per week, your long-term success is virtually guaranteed. You put yourself on the side of the angels. Many self-made millionaires work 70 to 80 hours per week to get established in their careers. There are no shortcuts to lasting success.

Now, before we go further I think I need to mention that Brian does not necessarily mean that you have to actually be at your place of employment those extra hours. In other words, you could be working on your career at home by reading and studying and improving yourself rather than watching TV. I think people need to be careful in thinking that you’re only working if you’re on the job. I think that could set a wrong precedent. After all, some people do have other jobs (like being a spouse and a parent). What’s the point in advancing your career if your home life stinks and you don’t know your kids?

And while I dont’ necessarily have a problem with working more than 40 hours per week, I think people would be much better served if…


Just physically being at work doesn’t mean you’re doing anything! We all know of co-workers who are at work all the time but don’t seem to get anything done.

Thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with the 40 Plus Formula?

19 thoughts on “Apply the 40 Plus Formula to Advance Your Career”

  1. JLP,

    I agree with the formula…and it’s true. If you consistently work to improve yourself (whether you are at work or not), you’ll ultimately be more successful in life than your counterparts.

    For instance, reading a good management book will not only teach the fundamentals of operating a business, it will also teach you the basics for running your life…time management, networking, social and human skills, etc. All of these lessons can be applied both in the work place and outside of the workplace.

    If you can provide a few extra hours to invest in yourself, you’ll see changes in every aspect of your life.

  2. It does make some sense, but not completely. In particular:
    If you work lots of hours then you will advance your career: sure that makes lots of sense.
    If you want to advance your career then you MUST work lots of hours: no, I don’t agree with that.

    There are other ways to do well in your career without working more than 40 hours/week. Of course you won’t be the *best* at it, but if you value free time more than maximizing your financial gain then this might be the better approach.

  3. First of all, you are exactly right when you exhort folks to actually WORK when they are at work. 8 hours is plenty of time if one is actually WORKING (as opposed, say, to surfing the internet and checking out PF blogs, which is what Grace is currently doing. Do as I say, not as I do!)

    But that said, I don’t know that it is possible to work 40 plus hours on a regular basis (whether at the office or reading “managment books” at home) and still have a family life that works for the family as well as oneself.

    Too many people only know how to judge the sucess of their work by the amount of money they make or the toys they can buy.

    Too bad if they miss out on loving one’s work, making a genuine difference in the world, maintaining one’s family relationships, and enjoying one’s leisure.

  4. Thanks for adding that being a spouse and a parent also count towards your tally of “working” hours. As a parent I’d rather make $100K a year and work 40 hours a week at an office than make $1,000,000 and work 80. There are some things money still can’t buy.

  5. 1. View your job as yours. Like it was your company. You do what it takes, if not, it will not be yours for long. In my early years of building my career I did sacrifice many hours more than 40 per week. At crunch times I still do. A feeling of tired well being is much better than a well rested depression. Don’t get to used to the cushy life, things happen! Showing your family you are willing to sacrifice for their well being is a wonderful showing of love,(It’s Valentines, OK) do not do it to hide out from family duties.
    2. Invest in your community, your church, any number of civic organizations will do nicely. Not only will you provide much needed services for your fellow man, you will also build a valuable network of friends (who, by the way, become your best customers). Volunteer fot the sake of helping out, the other comes when your sincerity shows thru, and that you are not there for “what you can get”.
    3. Study, Read, Relax, Grow culturally. If a parent spend time developing your childrens interests and a broad knowledge realizing they will not be “mini me’s. Encourage them to decide for themselves what their interests are, help them to develop them.

    More than you asked for…….Each of us needs to stretch ourselves for betterment.

  6. I agree with the formula. Especially when you are young and at your first real job. If you are consistently staying late when needed to, to get work done, your boss will notice. I also think a major part of career development is what you do on your own. Reading books, websites and blogs is a great way to get information that most of your coworkers are missing out on.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, everyone.


    I think the main point is balance. You have to figure out a balance and realize that choices must be made. That said, I do think that too many people make excuses for why they don’t achieve what they want even though they aren’t giving their all while they are at work.

  8. I have mixed experience with this one.

    Personally, I’ve worked far in excess of 40 hrs per week for all my 20 years of professional work.

    The most successful people I know in just about any field – be it politics, the arts, business, etc., work hard and long hours at it both in and out of the office. They usually exhibit an intensity for the “work” to the point that for them it is not exactly “work”. Typically, these people get something more from their vocation than a paycheck – they get some other form of personal gratification, whether it’s that they enjoy it, or they enjoy the sense of accomplishment.

    I probably fall into the latter category – the sense of accomplishiment that comes from winning or prevailing against long odds, or a job well-done is a huge motivating factor, even when I may not necessarily enjoy what I am doing.

    My FIL is a good counter-point to my relatively zealous approach to success. He was a loyal company man all the way, with a strong sense of pride in his work, BUT, a clear sense of priority that work and money are of secondary importance. I doubt he averaged more than 50 hours per week, though there were periods of time when he had to travel to far and for extended periods of time. He was still able to become financially well-off (+$1mm NW) the old-fashioned way: slowly and by living below his means. I know he worries about my priorities (though he is also very encouraging).

    I am far less patient than he was. But, his lesson is a powerful one that I cannot ignore. I think too, that as people age, see people pass away, and recognize their own mortality, priorities skew more towards stopping to smell the roses from time to time.

  9. This is certainly not a universal formula. I’m forty years old, and in my 18 years of professional experience, it has been exceedingly rare that I’ve worked more that a 40 hour week, and have done quite well in terms of salary and advancement. My wife and I put “quantity time” together far above work life.

    The formula that’s worked for me is “work smart, not hard”.

  10. I guess he hasn’t read The Four Hour Workweek 🙂 I used to think this way and actually worked 80-100 hours a week at my job for 2 years. Then I realized I could make money to support myself, save, and do what I wanted without killing myself.

    I’m not saying it pays to be lazy. Everyone should try to excel at something and achieve their goals. It’s just that you should pick the areas you want to excel in, whether it’s your career, making money, personal relationships, personal fitness, or anything else.

  11. When you are passionate about what you do and love your job, be it at home or for some organization, the concept of 40 plus gets automatically imbibed in your system. One doesn’t think about working extra hours on any given day, it just happens every day.
    (Type 1)

    On the other hand, when you are not so passionate about the work you do for some organization, there are two options – 1. Try to educate more about your work and work related advancements, create interest and eventually becoming passionate about it (Type 2)
    2. Work 40 hours exactly and spend extra hours each day on what you really like to do hoping to some day turn that into your real career (Type 3)

  12. Wow. I not only think this is absolutely horrible advice, I think the attitude it embodies is one of the worst things about our culture and our society.

    First of all, defining productivity in terms of number of hours worked is just plain wrong.

    Second, if you need to work that much more just to get ahead, you are in the wrong job.

    Third, you are encouraging people to give up more and more of their life, the stuff that matters, in favor of a mere job, the stuff that doesn’t matter. My job is how I make a living; the goal is to make it interfere with my life as little as possible. “Nobody ever died wishing they’d spent more time at the office.”

    I hate the entire attitude that is behind this advice. I hate the entire idea that there is somehow virtue in working for more time. There isn’t. This is the idiocy of the “work ethic”, which was invented by rich people who wanted to find a way to get other people to do work so they wouldn’t have to. Forget that, and forget anyone who expects you to devote your life to a job, no matter how much you like it.

    I like my job. I make well above average income and enjoy what I do. I sure as heck don’t try to spend more and more time doing it, though. I try to do it BETTER, so I can spend LESS time doing it and still get ahead.

  13. The idea is to take on more work than what can be done in 40 hours. Not to stretch out your current assignment to 50 or 60!

    This does work. If you take on the work of 1.5 people you will get noticed. Most of the work is done by about 10% of the employees – the top 10%. The rest are just putting in their time doing their job and no more.

  14. I don’t think that agree with that theory. There is nothing magical about the number 40 or that many hours. In many countries the work week is less, and in others it’s more. Workers in the US have been cultured to follow this routine and do so almost mindlessly now. I personally think that you should not work on things based on any formula for number of hours, but rather on based on specific goals or tasks. You should say, “I’m going to finish this report today”, or “I’m going to make this many sales today”, or “I’m going to read this book today”, rather than “I’m going to be busy for at least 40 hours, and if I can be busy for more than 40 hours I’m a success!” Your time is money and the more you can accomplish well in the same amount of time defines success to me. That means that you will be able to eventually accomplish more in less time, allowing yourself time to do other things that you enjoy and live a more fulfilling life.-Rich

  15. I should add to the above that I hit the $mm NW mark before the age of 40, whereas it took my FIL considerably longer, I’m guessing age 60 or thereabouts to reach that kind of NW. On the other hand he has a decent pension, something I am not likely to ever receive. I don’t think he would have been happy doing things my way, but conversely, I wouldn’t be happy with his way. There are things about career and financial attainment at a relatively young age, that I feel were worth the extreme effort and sacrifices. Now in my mid-40’s I know I have the option to quit (not that I would) depending on the kind of lifesyle I’d be willing to accept.

  16. I think its important that this plus part of the 40 hours doesn’t necessarily have to be at the office. If you were to work 60 hour weeks at the office you might be doing nothing more than spinning you wheels or burning yourself out. Taking that extra time to improve yourself or work on a side project is a definite must.

  17. I somewhat agree with Rich Money Million that goal-orientation and knowledge is the best driver of career/business success, far and above simply putting in time. My objective is to leverage experience, knowledge, and capital to accomplish more in less time and effort. It’s just that I have found that especially when starting out, if you want to accelerate the process, and achieve above-average success in a shorter than average timeframe, then some sacrifices are going to be in order. Now, that said, you might question whether above-average success or wealth is really an appropriate goal. And that is purely a matter of personal preference.

  18. I agree with Jeremy. I really hate that it’s become so common in this country–even expected, in many cases–for people to work 60+ hours a week.

  19. I have a better solution that works for me. I know how to do “stuff” others don’t and couldn’t figure out on their own. If I quit right now they’d probably offer me a 20% raise to get me back or they’d loose 45 vendors right off the bat.

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