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The Slight Edge
The slight edge by Jeff Olson remains one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.
I’m a strong believer in the law of attraction. But I soon realized that thoughts alone won’t manifest my dreams.
The slight edge was the missing piece. It teaches how to stay motivated along the path to success. The book also underlines the importance of our small daily actions and how mastering the mundane can lead to stratospheric success.
I learned the magic of thinking big, but mostly, we get to take massive actions.
Part I: HOW THE SLIGHT EDGE WORKS
The Beach Bum and the Millionaire
Jeff Olson, the author of the slight edge mentions two friends. He first talks about a beach bum who grew his blonde hair, lifted weights and chased girls. He later mentions another friend, the one who excelled and graduated from college and business school.
Despite the contrast, the author reveals that both people are actually himself.
He went from a beach bum to a multi-millionaire success.
What has changed?
He realized that he didn’t change much who he was. He mostly changed what he did.
As Jeff admits, being exposed to the slight edge changed his life.
The good news is, you can also have the same transformation.
For things to change, we have to change
Struggling to make the ends meet, he began to work in a wealthy golf club by cutting the grass.
One day, he stopped and asked a fundamental question that would change his life.
Why are some people over there riding in carts and why is he there working? He just didn’t get it.
He started to think that for things to change, he had to change.
The importance of our everyday actions
Think about it, Jeff Olson went from a college dropout, a beach bum to a complete financial failure. At the same time, he’s been a straight-A student, occupied important roles such as top corporate manager and became a successful entrepreneur. That doesn’t make sense right?
So what is the difference?
Actually, “the seeds of both beach bum and millionaire lay in the simple actions that we took every day”.
The roller coaster of life
What do we usually do when we hit rock-bottom?
In our most difficult times, we do whatever it takes to get ourselves moving up. We have to do “something, anything, to start climbing upward toward the point of survival.”
But as soon as we get our heads above water, we head back down again, adopting our old negative habits.
But what if you keep doing the things that rescued you from failure? What if you focus on executing those little tasks instead of sliding back to your old habits?
Jeff Olson maintains that you will go over the survival line (as in the picture below) and reach success as long as you keep doing them. And that’s the difference.
Actually, when we achieve success, our first reaction is to rest on our own laurels.
But that mindset will lead us to failure again. Why would you stop doing the actions that brought you to success? Common sense is not always common practice.
And the author attests: “Once I got a little way above survival and was starting to head up into the warmer waters of success, without realizing it or thinking about it, I would stop doing the things that had gotten me there.”
And he would just do that, every time. Sliding back to his old behaviors explains why he alternated between failure and success.
The is to “keep doing the things that got you this far.”
“If we would just keep doing the things that got us from failure up to survival in the first place, the things we already know how to do and were already doing, they would eventually carry us all the way to success.”
The small things matter
What separate you from failure to success are the small things that you do every day. They are actually simple, so simple that it’s easy to dismiss them.
You don’t need to take massive actions or do heroic things to achieve success. It’s easy to overlook the small things because they don’t produce big results; at least for the moment.
Even if they are simple to do and also simple not to do, successful people keep doing them anyway. Unsuccessful people don’t take any actions because it’s easy to ignore them. They don’t immediately reap the negative consequences of their negligence.
Concretely, what are those things? We can for example take a few dollars out of a paycheck and put them into savings; that’s easy, nothing to it.
You can also go to the gym for a few minutes every day or read ten pages of a non-fiction book, every day.
The slight edge defined
The slight edge could also be called “little virtues” or “success habits.” Those are the simple daily disciplines, simple productive actions, repeated consistently over time. That, in a nutshell, is the slight edge.
Are you a Beach Bum or a Millionaire?
Based on Jeff Olson’s story, he believes that all of us have both the beach bum and the millionaire inside us. We all are potential failures or potential success.
Whether you believe you can succeed or will be a failure, you’re both right.
“The truth is, you have complete control over the direction that the rest of your life takes. “
Essential Points from Chapter 1
“The same activities that take us from failure to survival would also take us from survival to success—if we would just keep doing them. “
“You already know how to do everything it would take to make you an outrageous success. All you have to do is keep doing the things that have gotten you this far. “
“You have complete control over the direction that the rest of your life takes.”
“There is a beach bum and a millionaire inside each one of us. What makes the difference in how things turn out? You do”
The First Ingredient
In the information era, we’ve never been exposed to such an amount of information.
You can have it all and find everything from books, from libraries or from the internet.
Do you want to change your life? Have a better diet? It’s easy to find the information.
But there is a paradox. Despite the best content, ‘that golden, priceless, incredibly insightful information seemed to have hardly any effect or no effect at all.”
It is possible to change one’s life. The teachings given in these books are life-altering. Yet, people don’t find any value in them as if these materials don’t work.
Most of us expect a quantum leap that will drastically change our life within the first months but then we quit.
There is more “how-to-do” information that has never been before and it’s not the problem. Why are some people still failing then? Wouldn’t it be easy to just read a book about success and achieve it? There lies the problem, “it is how you do the “hows” that is most important”.
“The answer is only the answer—it isn’t actually doing the thing. It isn’t applying the answer, living the answer. It’s only information.”
The Missing Ingredient
So what is the missing ingredient? Jeff Olson says that it’s your philosophy.
From now on, change the way you think about the simple everyday things.
When you change how you think about the simple everyday things, you will take the necessary steps to achieve what you set your mind to.
“ If you don’t change how you think about these simple everyday things, then no amount of how-to’s will get you anywhere or give you any true solutions”
It’s simple, if you have a positive philosophy, you will turn it into actions which will become your attitude. As you do that consistently, you will also have positive results and therefore a positive life.
The contrary is also true, the more negative your philosophy, the worse your attitude and overtime, you’ll accumulate enough negative actions that will get you a negative lifestyle.
Diets actually do work
Forget the get-rich-quick scheme and the magic pill, if you want success, realize that there’s no quick-fix path.
The slight edge will act as a catalyst that will help you transform the good information (which is available everywhere) into the right actions.
Actually, the slight edge will make the “how-to’s” work for you.
Essential Points from Chapter 2
“No matter how good the information is, it won’t do you any good unless you have the right catalyst that will let you apply it effectively. “
“Your philosophy creates your attitudes, which create your actions, which create your results, which create your life. “
“The slight edge is the first ingredient, the catalyst you need that makes all the how-to’s work.”
One million dollar right now or a single penny
Here’s a simple illustration of the power of the slight edge
If you were given the choice, would you take 1 million $ in cash right now or a single penny that doubles every day for 31 days?
The chapter starts with that question. Most people would be tempted to get immediately the 1 million.
But here’s the catch. Here is why you should “choose the penny doubled, every time, and not be swayed by the allure of the easy-million credit line.”
At the beginning, it’s not obvious. On day five, compared to the easy $1 million, you’ll have sixteen cents. Then, on day ten, only 5.12 $; on day 20, with only 11 days left, you’ll have 5243 $. It’s only at day twenty-nine that you’ve got 3 million $. But here’s the magic, on day thirty, you’ll have 5.3 million $ and on the last day, on day 31, you’ll reap 10, 7 million $ thanks to the magic penny!
The water hyacinth
Just like the penny that doubles everyday for 31 days, a water hyacinth doubles itself every day.
On day one, you wouldn’t see anything. If you come back there on day 15, you will see nothing but a “tiny dollop of lavender-pink” in the pond.
On day 20, you would notice nothing but a little patch of foliage floating off the side.
“More than a week later, on day 29, half the pond’s surface was still open water. And on day 30, just twenty-four hours later, the water’s surface had totally disappeared. The entire pond had been overtaken by a rich blanket of purple-pink water hyacinth”
The Cost of Waiting
It’s often recommended to start investing early. When you start early, the power of compound interest will quickly make you a millionaire. The more you wait and the more you lose the opportunity. As Jeff Olson, the author of the slight edge put it clearly: “It’s never too late to start. It’s always too late to wait.”
The Other Side of the Slight Edge
All the examples above mentioned illustrate the power of the slight edge. With time, you can have positive results as long as you practice the right habits.
The problem is, it works the other way too. It’s a double edge sword. If you adopt the right habits and if you do the little things right, the slight edge will uplift you to success. Use it carelessly however and it will bring you down toward failure.
You’ve got an easy choice. You can have simple positive actions and do them consistently, or reap the negative consequences from simple errors in judgment.
The Slight Edge’s philosophy
In his book, “The richest man in Babylon” Georges Clason shares this powerful analogy:
If you give men two choices, one would be a heavy bag with gold and the other a book with words of wisdom, which one would they choose?
Most people would rush into the first choice: the gold. They will dismiss the wisdom and soon will waste all their gold. Living a lavish lifestyle, they will soon find themselves without anything.
We will always need some wisdom to keep our gold. In the same way, we’d better understand the slight edge’s philosophy and embrace its wisdom.
From now on, understand that the simple little actions you take today can look very different when they compound overtime.
We observed the power of the slight edge with the single penny and the water hyacinth.
It’s important to cultivate patience and walk the path. Understand that every little step counts. When they compound, we will reach our destination. Actually, the small things do make a difference. They might look unimportant, undramatic, but they matter. “They not only make a difference, they make all the difference”.
In addition to patience, we need to develop faith. Believe that those little positive actions will yield in positive big results. These same tiny actions will become a miracle; your task is to act and to trust the process.
Essential Points from Chapter 3
“Simple daily disciplines—little productive actions, repeated consistently over time—add up to the difference between failure and success.”
“The slight edge is relentless and cuts both ways: simple daily disciplines or simple errors in judgment, repeated consistently over time, make you or break you.”
“Without the slight edge, you can start with a million and lose it all. With the slight edge, you can start with a penny and accomplish anything you want.”
Master the Mundane
What Do the 5 Percent Do Differently?
Be honest, do you know a lot of people who are successful in every aspect of their lives? Or would you agree that most people struggle to make their ends meet? They complain and whine on their lives. These same people can barely keep their heads above water.
Probably the most important question is: What are the 5% doing that the 95% don’t? Is there any big difference?
The only difference is the slight edge.
The 5% understand the power of the slight edge and they use it positively to their advantage. They know that the slight edge can work for or against them.
“The slight edge is the force behind the amazing power of compound interest.”
The $10 Million Question
Successful people have one thing in common: they master the mundane.
Take a look at the most successful ones, you will observe that their days are filled will seemingly unimportant actions. In the morning, they wake up and practice their empowering routines. Before bed, they might also have another set of routines.
The truth is, their lives are filled with hundreds if not thousands of small actions, repeated consistently over time. In short, they master the mundane.
Their success lies in those simple little tasks. As a matter of fact, it’s easy to do them, but it is also easy not to do them.
By now, you might wonder why people are still unsuccessful if all they have to do is to execute those little tasks.
Reason #1: They’re Easy to Do
It’s so easy to do the simple things that it’s also easy to skip them. Most people don’t understand the big impact of the small things. Given the choice, they will choose the path of least resistance.
Reason #2: The Results Are Invisible
Just like on day one, you cannot see that the single penny will yield into millions in 31 days. Saving a penny now doesn’t make any difference so it’s easy to ignore it. The results are too far in the future. Would you still eat that burger right now if it clogs your artery and causes an immediate near-fatal heart attack? Chances are high that not.
Jeff Olson in the slight edge recommends you to read 10 pages of a good book. The results are invisible and that won’t change anything for now. But it’s a slight edge action that is guaranteed to improve your life.
Reason #3: They Seem Insignificant
For most people, what they do right now doesn’t really matter.
But the truth of the matter is “What you do today matters. What you do every day matters”
Easy to do but also easy not to do, those are the things that bring you nothing for the moment. Open your eyes, they do matter. In a single occurrence, of course they don’t matter but overtime they are everything.
Essential Points from Chapter 4
“Only 5 percent—1 in 20—achieve the level of success and fulfillment they hope for. The other 95 percent either fail or fall short. The only difference is the slight edge. “
“The secret to the 5 percent’s success is always in mundane, easy things that anyone could do. “
“People don’t consistently do those simple things for three reasons: 1) while they’re easy to do, they are also easy not to do; 2) you don’t see any results at first; 3) they seem insignificant, like they don’t matter. But they do.”
Slow Down to Go Fast
Willpower alone won’t produce the extraordinary results you want. The secret ingredient is time.
The Power of Time
Consistently repeated daily actions + time = unconquerable results.
This is why it’s important to consistently practice the positive actions that lead to success.
As long as you do this, time is your friend.
In the slight edge, time is qualified as a “universal amplifier”. Jeff Olson suggests positioning your daily actions so that time will reward you, not punish you.
The problem with our society
We always want everything right now, and if possible, without effort whatsoever.
It is as if we wanted yesterday the things that will be available tomorrow.
Our culture cultivated a “microwave mentality”, a push-button and instant access desires.
Back in the days however, when we were an agrarian society, the logic was to plant, cultivate then harvest.
Today, most people want to go directly from plant to harvest.
Good things really take time and life is far from a clickable link. Stop buying into the logic of the lottery. You can’t just buy a ticket and win everything in life, we have to build the skills, the relationships and the experience; and all of these take time.
Read my article: Mastery by George Leonard
The slight edge is boring
Mastering the mundane implies the execution of boring tasks.
When you get into your car, fastening your seatbelt might seem undramatic, after all who will notice? But that single action saves millions of lives all over the world every year. So maybe we should think differently about those little tiny tasks.
Nobody will congratulate you if you make the right choices. By the same token, no one will punish you if you choose the wrong ones. “No applause, no cheers, no screams, no life-or-death results played out on the big screen”.
Yet, those seemingly undramatic actions will compound overtime.
For now they won’t kill you but they will ultimately affect your life.
The power of compounding effort
We said that the slight edge makes all the difference between successful and unsuccessful people.
The highly effective people know how to be more productive because their habits feed their success.
Unsuccessful people however formed habits that fed their failures.
The slight edge always works, either for us or against us.
Successful people spend their time working on their dreams rather than working on someone else’s dreams. They work ON their lives rather than IN their lives.
Successful people know that they can shape their future and it starts by choosing the right choices that will lead them towards that bright future. The choices that seem “mundane, simple, insignificant” in the moment.
The key is to cultivate patience. Think about where you were 3 years ago, time flies right?
Now, even if what you’re doing right now might be boring at the moment, your life can also drastically change 3 years from now.
“Sometimes you need to slow down to go fast.”
Essential Points from Chapter 5
Time is the force that magnifies those simple daily disciplines into massive success.
There is a natural progression to success: plant, cultivate, harvest—and the central step, cultivate, can only happen over the course of time.
No genuine success in life is instant. Life is not a clickable link.
To grasp how the slight edge works, you have to view your actions through the eyes of time.
Difficult takes a little time; impossible takes just a little longer.
Don’t Fall for the Quantum Leap
We’ve all heard the adage: the greater I work, the luckier I get. We need to believe in hard work.
Instant gratification remains one of the biggest fallacies in our society.
We neglect long-term thinking and want everything immediately. Most of us are looking for a breakthrough, not the long incremental progress that lead to the breakthrough.
We wish that our life will drastically change, someday.
But as the saying goes, there is Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday but there’s no such thing as “someday”.
Someday doesn’t exist, it never has and never will. There is only today. When tomorrow comes, it will be another today; so will be the next day. There is never anything but today.
There’s no quantum leap
“Success is not a random accident. Life is not a lottery”
Have you heard of bank presidents, successful entrepreneurs, or corporate executives win the lottery?
Chances are high that you haven’t, simply “because they don’t buy lottery tickets. Successful people have already grasped the truth that lottery players have not: success is not a random accident. Life is not a lottery”
The breakthrough that we witness is only the results of an infinite series of actions executed over time.
There is no such thing as overnight success either, “no collapse is sudden or precipitous. They are both products of the slight edge”.
Actually, quantum leap does exist but it’s the results of an extended, lengthy accumulation of slight-edge actions.
“A true quantum leap is what happens when a subatomic particle suddenly jumps to a higher level of energy. But it happens as a result of the gradual buildup of potential caused by energy being applied to that particle over time.”
Essential Points from Chapter 6
“Quantum leaps do happen, but only as the end result of a lengthy, gradual buildup of consistently applied effort. “
“No success is immediate, no collapse is sudden. They are both the result of the slight edge accruing “momentum over time. “
“Hoping for “the big break”—the breakthrough, the magic bullet—is not only futile, it’s dangerous, because it keeps you from taking the actions you need to create the results you want.”
The Secret of Happiness
There is a difference between “secret of happiness” and “secret to happiness”.
Have you spotted it?
“The secret to happiness” is an ensemble of things, experiences and events that will lead you to happiness.
But “the secret of happiness” is the main ingredient that will inevitably create your happiness.
So what is that ingredient?
Let me first ask you a question.
Do you think that happiness will come only when you get the life of your dreams? Only when you buy that beautiful house or get that fancy car of yours?
What if it’s the other way around? What if successful people cultivate a state of happiness that helps them quickly manifest their dreams?
A large body of research confirms that real happiness precedes the outcomes.
Yet, most of us have it backward. We tend to think that success precedes happiness. We tell ourselves: “Once I get the Ferrari, I’ll be happy”.
But “happiness doesn’t come at the end. Happiness comes first”.
Happiness should precede success. The good news is: you can cultivate happiness by forming “happy habits”.
What are those everyday actions that can make you happier?
These are the everyday actions that you can perform regularly. Once formed as habits, they will quickly get the results you are looking for:
SLIGHT EDGE + HAPPY HABITS = SUCCESS
You can think about simple things such as:
Writing three things you are grateful for
Scribing or writing on your journal for a few minutes. Acknowledging the recent positive experience you had.
Exercise and do cardiovascular exercises
Give your time to a particular cause
Pay things forward or do random acts of kindness
The author, Jeff Olson also recommends us to “Read at least ten pages of a good book daily”
Read my other article: “Morning Miracle” by Hal Elrod
Essential Points from Chapter 7
“Happiness is created by doing some simple, easy things, and doing them every day. “
“Success does not lead to happiness; it’s the other way around: more happiness creates more success.”
“Elevated levels of happiness create elevated levels of health, performance, social involvement, marital fulfillment, financial and career success, and longevity.”
“Greater happiness is key to making the slight edge work in your life. “
The Ripple Effect
Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
If you want to change the world, you have to start with yourself. The best way to change someone is to change oneself first.
At some point in our lives, we ask ourselves why we are here. We also ask what our contribution to the world could be.
It’s normal if you think that you want to make a difference because you were here.
What would be your legacy long after you’re gone?
It’s one of our most profound human drives: feeling that we make a difference, that our lives matter and that our presence made the world a better place.
Jeff Olson the author of the Slight Edge put it very well: “When you create positive improvements in your life, you create positive ripples that spread out all around you, like a pebble of positivity dropped in a pond”
We can begin with ourselves. Changing our lives starts with changing the daily actions we take.
The positive small tasks we execute on a daily basis will yield in a positive attitude.
As we change, we also influence other people around us. “You become a better relative, a better friend, a better business associate. A better father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle.”
Essential Points from Chapter 8
“Everyone wants to know that they make a difference in the world—that their lives matter. “
“Greater success also creates a greater responsibility to share that success with others. “
“A single thoughtful, committed person can change the world. “
“We are all having a ripple effect on others; the question is, what kind of ripple effect, negative or positive, do we want to have?”
But You Have to Start with a Penny
We all have to start somewhere, even with a single penny. Small is far better than nothing at all. A single penny seems insignificant but it’s better to start with it: it can make all the difference.
No matter how big your dreams are, whatever success you want to create, believe that it is possible.
It is possible for an ordinary person to make her life extraordinary. But we have to start somewhere, even with a single penny.
What is important is just to do something and not fall into the “someday I will”-mentality.
You create your own butterfly effect
Have you heard of the butterfly effect? It states that if a butterfly’s wing slaps in Japan, it will impact and cause a big typhoon in Brazil.
Think also about the domino effect where the first domino topples all the others.
In a similar way, you can create your own domino and butterfly effect: you matter and what you do matter.
Essential Points from Chapter 9
“Great success often starts from a tiny beginning—but there has to be beginning. “
“You have to start somewhere. You have to do something. If you add just 1 percent of anything—skill, knowledge, effort—per day, in a year it will have more than tripled. But you have to start with the 1 percent. “
“Greatness is not something predetermined, predestined, or carved into your fate by forces beyond your control. Greatness is always in the moment of the decision.”