The Slight Edge

"The same activities that take us from failure to survival would also take us from survival to success—if we just keep doing them."

- The Slight Edge, page 13

Slow and steady wins the race, a cliché not widely accepted these days. In a world of quick fixes, immediate results and lofty resolutions, Jeff Olsen sets out to encourage readers seeking success and progress to opt for a lifestyle shift, one that adopts incremental actions, daily intentions and long term commitment.

While not earth shattering, The Slight Edge is a supremely practical guide that uncovers very logical, deliberate actions that, when applied, can ultimately lead to success in all facets of life: health, wealth, personal development, relationships and overall happiness.

Equipped with two main parts, Olsen introduces the readers to the fundamentals. First, the theory of the Slight Edge by making connections and incorporating fables to really drive home the basics.  Second, Olsen digs deeper into adoption, equipping readers with evaluation tools and a sort of workbook that encourages immediate application of the presented concepts. Throughout, Olsen keeps the inspiration alive by encouraging his readers to dig deep, practice humility and envision their ultimate successes.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Slight Edge

"Your philosophy creates your attitude, which creates your actions, which create your results, which create your life."
- The Slight Edge, page 27

The Slight Edge is the simple productive actions, repeated consistently over time that ultimately leads to success. It is that simple. But, Olsen goes on to explain that the simplest actions are also that simple to overlook or excuse away for “tomorrow”. Their apparent insignificance, their simplicity and the perceived ample opportunity for a “re-do” is what separates the successful from those that are… less successful.

Olsen reminds readers “only 5 percent achieve the level of success and fulfillment they hoped for. The other 95 percent either fail or fall short. The only difference is The Slight Edge.”

This simple, yet profound theory can be applied to every arena of your life. If optimal health is a priority, those simple small actions could be a commitment to 30 minutes of cardio a day or making a conscious choice to consume a healthy breakfast every morning. If finances were your focus, perhaps tracking expenses daily and preparing meals at home would account for your small daily actions.

Olsen points out that those 95% of people are conducting seemingly harmless, yet unproductive actions consistently overtime that ultimately lead to failure. This could be ordering take-out lunch every day leading to poor health stats, or overlooking networking connections which are missed opportunities for your start up vision, or crediting time to a weekly sport rather than committing time to your important relationships. All of these actions are seemingly insignificant, but over time add up to insurmountable roadblocks and ultimate failure.

The Slight Edge serves as a prescribed plan that is personalized, adaptable and logical, although Olsen doesn’t promise a path without hurdles. Successful people fail their way to the top—it is not a clean report card you are looking for—progress comes with challenges, setbacks and obstacles but it is how you redirect and reroute that separate those that are successful. Olsen’s mantra is, “do the thing and you shall have the power.”

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Everything Curves

"What I didn’t yet know was that nothing ever stays the same. Everything is in motion, always. Everything changes"
- The Slight Edge, page 6

Olsen suggests that everyone is on a life path, and that path is not straight but rather a curve. A curve is in constant motion, either towards success or away from it. Every action we take is a movement in one direction or another. At first, it is a fight for survival, once we have our head above water he argues that 95% of us stop doing those integral things that led us to that success point, that often unconscious decision is what sets you back in the direction of failure. He argues that if we continue to make those small actions that got our head above water, we will land at the shores of success.

That curving continuum or life path correlates with positive and negative tendencies associated with success or failure. Those set for success often possess the habit of taking responsibility, owning up to missteps and errors where those set for failure often exhibit patterns of assigning blame.

Likewise, those that are set for success often have their eye on the prize, a vision for their future, where those set for failure tend to have a foot firmly planted in the past.

“The problem is that most of us live with one foot planted firmly in the past and the other tucked timidly in the future—never in the moment.” Olsen writes. “The Slight Edge is all about living in the moment.”

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Cultivate Habits

"The creation of habits it is a pure slight edge: simple little actions, repeated over time."
- The Slight Habit, page 218

There are two kinds of habits that Olsen references, habits that serve you and your personal growth and those that quite simply, don’t. Creating productive habits serve your Slight Edge journey and provide something for you to “hang” your intentions on. Olsen provides readers with seven positive, Slight Edge approved habits to incorporate starting NOW.

  1. Show Up. Make like Nike and Just Do It. Establish your small, productive actions and envision your end goal.
  2. Be consistent. The kicker is that those small, productive actions are DAILY choices, achievable and yet progressive.
  3. Have a positive outlook. Olsen shares research that suggests the more positive your outlook, the more productive your output, increasing your likelihood of an upward curve toward success. He encourages a daily inventory of blessings, writing down or sharing small wins or areas of gratitude on a consistent basis.
  4. Be committed for the long haul. The Slight Edge does not provide a quick fix or overnight results, you must be aware of the invisible progress and set yourself up to handle the incremental shifts towards your end goal. Much like healthy weight loss, The Slight Edge forms habits lending itself to long-term sustainability.
  5. Cultivate a burning desire backed by faith. “The few people who achieve great things are those who not only passionately wanted to achieve them but also clearly see themselves achieving them”.
  6. Be willing to pay the price. Olsen suggests that in order to make the change or to see the progress you have to give something up, to make room for these new, consistent actions. That could be giving up Tuesday’s beer league or Saturday’s sleep in.
  7. Practice Slight Edge Integrity. What you do when no one is watching.

In summary, Olsen suggests in the pursuit of success “…it means embracing living uncomfortably in order to attain a life that is genuinely comfortable—not deceptively comfortable.”

Whilst a lengthy and at times tedious venture, The Slight Edge provides clear takeaways, and readers are truly set up to capture all the applications. For those who value efficiency in all forms, the valuable concepts will, at times, appear to drag on with anecdotes and stories, but rest assured the Insights awaiting are worth it. Bonus: There are summaries at the end of every chapter should you want to skim over the fluff.

Ultimately, the theory is solid, the application is intuitive and the feedback is inspiring; The Slight Edge really does serve up the goods.

So folks, what will you do today that will set future you up for success?

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Brittnei Gaudio

ABOUT Brittnei Gaudio

Brittnei is a serial goal setter with a passion for personal wellness, professional diversity and continual growth. She has an eclectic professional background, from inventive program development to strategic event operations...
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