Ricardo Semler — The Seven-Day Weekend and How to Break the Rules


“If you are giving back, it’s because you’ve taken too much.”
– Ricardo Semler

Ricardo Semler (@ricardosemler) is the former CEO of Semco Partners, a Brazilian company best known perhaps for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering.

During his leadership, Semco grew from four million in 1982 to two hundred and twelve million in 2003. His innovative — but very controversial — business management policies have attracted widespread interest from all over the world.

He is the best-selling author of Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace and The Seven-Day Weekend: A Better Way to Work in the 21st Century.

Ricardo recently started a podcast called LeadWise, where he has conversations with leaders about “challenging assumptions and changing how we live and work.”

Entrepreneurship and education are just two of the topics discussed in this wide-ranging conversation. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Ricardo Semler as much as I did!

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Want to hear another episode with a successful entrepreneur influenced by Ricardo Semler? — Listen to this interview with David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), which has already been downloaded nearly 1.5 million times. In this episode, DHH shares his thoughts on the power of being outspoken, running a profitable business without venture capital, Stoic philosophy, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Ricardo Semler:

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn | LeadWise Podcast | LeadWise at Twitter | LeadWise at Facebook

Show Notes

  • Ricardo tells us about his background: a refugee mother, a “miracle” birth, rock bands, law school, and inheriting a failing business. [08:07]
  • The big decision Ricardo made to turn his company around. [15:10]
  • In retrospect, was this decision rash, courageous, or simply the only option at the time? [19:46]
  • What does “Virando a Propria Mesa” mean? [21:40]
  • On asking “three whys in a row.” [23:10]
  • Ricardo wrote his first book (which became Maverick) in nine days. [26:28]
  • What’s the “right” way to fire someone? [30:29]
  • What changes are made once the “three whys” have cleared the way? [33:13]
  • How a small team with limited resources tests the processes that allow it to breathe and expand. [42:15]
  • Common mistakes made when scaling a business, and the importance of testing processes impartially. [47:14]
  • Books that could save civilization. [50:03]
  • Ricardo relays one of his favorite Kafka parables. [55:10]
  • On burning accolades from his past at age 50. [57:56]
  • Maximum personal wealth, and why no collector can ever be happy. [1:02:14]
  • Dark times and difficulties overcome. [1:15:19]
  • Does Ricardo rely on any guiding philosophies for handling tough or unpredictable situations? [1:19:17]
  • Processes over goals, and the purpose of what Ricardo calls “Terminal days.” [1:22:44]
  • Finances and a lifestyle directed by the wisdom of Swiss bankers and The Little Prince. [1:27:04]
  • “There’s nothing else of any importance while there’s a speck in your eye.” [1:32:09]
  • Ricardo’s morning ritual hasn’t involved an alarm clock for many years. [1:33:02]
  • “Absurdly wonderful” things Ricardo loves doing. [1:36:19]
  • The ephemeral nature of risk and consequences — both positive and negative. [1:38:04]
  • On enjoying the passing of time as the meaning of life (with thanks to James Taylor). [1:44:35]
  • What was the pattern interrupt that prompted Ricardo to stop collecting wine? [1:49:17]
  • Favorite documentary. [1:54:53]
  • What would Ricardo teach a disadvantaged ninth grade class? [1:58:51]
  • What would Ricardo’s billboard say? [2:02:28]
  • Parting thoughts and encouragement for listeners to get past misgivings to make desired changes. [2:03:50]

People Mentioned

Posted on: March 19, 2017.

Please check out Tools of Titans, my new book, which shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. It was distilled from more than 10,000 pages of notes, and everything has been vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion. The tips and tricks in Tools of Titans changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for sample chapters, full details, and a Foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger!

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18 comments on “Ricardo Semler — The Seven-Day Weekend and How to Break the Rules

  1. Mr Tim Ferriss, today my debt to you is just too big. Thank you so much for this. Ricardo became someone who deeply influenced me from the moment I first read his book to today. The same is true to you. From the 4hour workweek to today I’ve been enormously lucky to be able to consume all or almost all you produce (books, podcast, tv show, blog..). I’ve come to listen to every podcast, I’ve read The Art of Learning, The Obstacle is the Way, Spartan Up, Sam Harris’s books and podcast, Derek Sivers’s as well, and so much more.
    Today I just had the chance to listen to an amazing conversation between two of my heroes (with no illusions, I know you all have ups and downs, defects and qualities), and I’m so grateful you provided me (and everyone) with this opportunity.
    I can only shout out for a round 2, as I’m sure everyone else will as well.

    It was a hell of surprise to listen my own question spoken trough your voice, and I could not have chosen a better podcast for this to happen. Thank you Tim, may I someday be able to repay all this, either to you or forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey Tim!
    I can’t help but notice that there is one BIG absence in your Podcast….


    His point of view regarding leadership is also worth listening… I’m sure your episode with him will be EPIC. You both are so good at what you do. PLEASE make it happen!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed the “3 Whys?” I usually stop after 2, but now I’m going to push harder. Everyone DOES have an answer for the first question, but I’m going to see how many folks have a good answer to the 3rd question.


  4. Wow! Actually one of the best podcast episodes I’ve ever listened to. Interesting points of view complementing the 4 hour work week concepts. A very proactive, thought provoking and well directed talk. Thanks Tim and Ricardo.


  5. Ricardo Semler is the guest I was so looking forward to hearing on your show. He’s one of the greatest Brazilians alive and his thought provoking points of view have a lot to teach us not only about business but mainly about education. His ideas and the Lumiar School are simply the most advanced examples of how the educational system should be reinvented. I really hope to have the podcast Ricardo Semler – Part 2 with his views on education. Thanks Tim for bringing Ricardo to the show.


  6. Enjoy the passing of time and live in the now. As humans we spend most of our time thinking/worrying about the future or by living in the past. By living in the now you enjoy the time you have.

    Also the wine story – at the end you just have glass worth .20cents but every opened bottle of wine is a memory with a good friend can “waiting for the someday”.


  7. Tim – this was definitely keeping it real! At a time like this we need more people/leaders like Ricardo. Thank you so much Tim – another job well done.


  8. Tim you need to try the INNER ENGINEERING course by the Isha Foundation. There is an upcoming program coming soon. LOOK IT UP NOW.


  9. What a great podcast with so many insights! That amusing story about the car collector…
    But… isn’t that that the twin that lived on the mountain would be younger than the twin that lived near the sea, not another way around, or am I missing something? not being picky or something 🙂 just in the process of reading the biography of Einstein.
    Big hugs from Switzerland


  10. I have been listening to your fantastic podcasts for quite a while and this one blew my mind! Ricardo Semier is a truly inspirational visionary whose business and life tips are incredibly progressive and ahead of their time. I have run several creative businesses which always got crippled by unnecessary process and pursuit for growth. I wish I had read his books 15 years ago and am never going to have an org chart, vision statement or stupid process diagram in my life again!


  11. I was sick of listening business coaches saying things like “you can do it just tight your ass harder and visualize”… what a nice and sweet, and pretty close to wisdom food for though here …Thanks Tim Ferriss​