The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson [Book Summary – Review]

We all desire greater success in life. Yet, if we don’t get successful instantly, it can lead to frustration and giving up on our goals. As said by renowned actors, athletes, and CEOs, overnight success is a myth. Attaining greatness typically results from years of consistently making the right decisions.

Every decision you take, or neglect to make, has the potential to shape your life positively or negatively. Surprisingly, you may already possess the knowledge of actions that lead to a successful life.

This book will enlighten you about these actions and guide you on how to keep doing them.

In this book, you will discover

  • the significance of developing a life philosophy;
  • the value of continuous learning; and
  • seven essential habits that we should nurture 

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Chapter 1 -. To gain a slight edge, it is essential to create a life philosophy and learn the ordinary aspects of life.

Statistics from the U.S. News and World Report show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions crash by the second week of February. When faced with failure, we may attribute it to a lack of effort or insufficient passion for our goals.

But, the reality is that success comes from straightforward, productive actions consistently practiced over time—a principle called the slight edge.

Observing successful individuals might lead us to believe they possess exceptional intelligence or exclusive skills. Usually, this is not true.

Thanks to the abundance of self-help resources available, information on achieving success is more accessible than ever. Yet, the key lies in effectively applying this knowledge to reap actual benefits.

This is the point where the development of a life philosophy becomes crucial. A life philosophy shapes your perspective on life, impacting the way you behave, your emotions, and, eventually, your attitude. Its potency lies in its ability to alter how you perceive simple, day-to-day activities.

Take, for example, the life philosophy of Thomas J. Watson who was the founder of IBM: “The key to success is easy: Double your rate of failure.” Still, a lot of us shy away from considering failure as a viable option. What we may fail to grasp is that the more we encounter failure, the greater our opportunities for eventual success.

Consider the case of Abraham Lincoln, now remembered as one of the most prominent U.S. Presidents. Despite numerous election losses and setbacks in public offices, Lincoln viewed failure not merely as an option but as his specialty. By doubling his rate of failure, he eventually ascended to the highest office, leaving a profound impact on the country that the United States has become.

Another strategy to attain a slight edge is to give attention to the mundane aspects of life.

Consider the case of Steve Martin, renowned as the most significant audience attraction in the history of stand-up comedy. However, during his teenage years, Martin wasn’t talented in singing, dancing, or acting. Determined to improve, day after day, he immersed himself in studying magic tricks, learned the banjo, and tested lines out on anyone willing to listen. The activities he undertook were neither difficult nor thrilling; in fact, they were rather mundane. Yet, by learning these mundane tasks, Steve Martin emerged as a star.

Chapter 2 – Over time, the daily decisions we make either contribute to our success or work against us.

When events unfold in our lives, luck, situations, fate or blame usually get the accolades. However, the truth is that our choices, particularly the small ones, play a crucial role. Each decision we make steers us toward either success or failure.

The slight edge isn’t only a lifestyle choice that we can opt for or ignore; it consistently operates underneath. If we fail to leverage it to our benefit, it will be against us. While its impacts may not be instantly apparent, over time, they will become evident. Therefore, how can we make the most of the slight edge?

We have to assess whether we are heading towards success or failure to reap the advantage of the slight edge.

One approach to achieve this is by identifying our predominant mindset. Individuals heading toward failure often adopt a mindset of assigning blame, whereas successful individuals take accountability for their circumstances. Instead of fixating on setbacks, they prioritize determining how to react, even in unfair situations.

Assuming responsibility for how we navigate life’s challenges places us in a good position to reach our goals.

Another method to gauge whether we are headed for success or failure is by assessing our focus. Are we inclined to dwell on the past or concentrate on the future?

Some individuals use past mistakes as a tool for self-punishment and to punish other people. However, to attain success, it is essential to draw lessons from the past to form our future.

Why not engage in a sincere self-evaluation at this moment? Consider your well-being. Are you actively striving to make it better daily? Do your day-to-day dietary choices and workout routine contribute to a sense of improved health? Alternatively, do you sense a decline in your energy levels? Is your health following a path towards success or failure?

Likewise, why not undertake a related analysis of other aspects of your life, like your happiness, profession, and relationships?

Chapter 3 – Individuals tend to overlook mundane aspects of life due to their simplicity and apparent lack of significance –and the fact that the outcomes are not visible.

Just around five percent of individuals manage to accomplish a significant portion of their life goals. If truly, success in only about doing the basic things constantly,  what prevents the remaining 95% from following suit?

In essence, those five percent comprehend the effect of slight edge and actively incorporate this concept into their lives, while the remaining 95 percent do not.

It is undeniable that mundane activities are easily executable. But, it is simply as effortless to neglect them.

Take, for instance, the simple act of saving a few dollars daily—it is an easy task; however, not executing this is equally straightforward. Similarly, dedicating fifteen minutes to daily cardio exercise requires minimal effort, yet it is also prone to negligence.

Individuals who are not successful often opt for what seems to be the simplest route through life. However, in the end, it becomes evident that they have chosen the most challenging path.

All the necessary steps for changing your life are simple. However, apart from the fact that easily achievable tasks are often overlooked, there’s a different reason why most individuals fail to carry them out: these actions don’t seem to lead directly to success, at least not instantly.

For example, let’s say you decided to save two dollars daily instead of purchasing a coffee. How much would you accumulate when it is the end of the week? Only 14 dollars. It may not appear impressive, but these fundamental elements contribute to the creation of millionaires. The challenge lies in the fact that the outcomes are so far in the future that they remain invisible at the moment.

Take eating habits as another example. We are all aware of how to maintain a healthy diet, yet a lot of us opt for unhealthy eating. Why? The adverse effects aren’t immediately noticeable. Imagine consuming a cheeseburger and experiencing a nearly fatal heart attack right away. Would you ever consider eating a cheeseburger again? Probably unlikely! However, that’s a scenario that could unfold after 20 to 30 years of poor dietary choices.

Success, much like failure, is a gradual process. By the time the outcomes of your efforts become apparent to everybody, the choices you made in favor of a slight edge become a thing of the past.

The mundane aspects of daily life accumulate over time, even though their importance may not be immediately apparent. The distinction between success and failure is so subtle that it can be easily overlooked.

Those who are unsuccessful may not recognize it, but they are essentially following the philosophy that what they do in the present moment doesn’t hold significance. However, the reality is that it does matter. Successful individuals understand this and leverage it to safeguard their future, fulfillment, happiness, health, and relationships.

Always bear in mind: that there are only two possible destinations. If you are not on the path to success, then you are inevitably moving toward failure.

Chapter 4 – Consistent lifelong learning along with regular practice will enable you to reap the advantages of the slight edge.

Making wise decisions will put you on the route to success; however, that may not keep you on that path. It requires consistent and lifelong learning through various available approaches for the slight edge to remain in your favor.

Engaging in the habit of reading ten pages of a book that is inspiring and educational daily has the potential to significantly enhance your life. By doing so, you could complete a 300-page book each month. Alternatively, you might allocate 15 minutes daily to listen to transformative audio content or participate in courses and seminars every few months.

Although studying is beneficial, it is how you make use of the information you gain that will have a lasting effect on your personal development, and growth.

As soon as you learn something, it is important to practicalize it. This not only deepens your knowledge. As stated by Confucius the Chinese philosopher, “Knowledge without practicing is pointless, and practice without knowledge is risky.”

Also, you can learn from other people. As soon as you know a person who has achieved similar goals to yours, you can observe and emulate their actions.

However, the transformative impact of this education is contingent on your ability to train your mind. To achieve this, you have to first know how both the conscious and unconscious brain operate.

While the conscious brain is strong, it can only concentrate on one task at a time and is prone to distractions. On the contrary, the unconscious brain oversees almost all of our brain processes. The truth is that 99.99% of the actions, our brain operate on autopilot.

For instance, have you ever taken a walk or driven a familiar road while your mind was deeply engaged in a different else? Definitely. This happens because your conscious mind has become so used to that road that it has ingrained itself in your subconscious.

To consistently make great decisions, it’s essential to teach your unconscious mind. The process involves utilizing your conscious mind to pinpoint a habit you wish to use and then consistently practicing it until it becomes ingrained in your subconscious and automatic.

Chapter 5 – The four slight edge allies are completion, momentum, celebration, and reflection.

Momentum represents the compelling force that propels us towards a goal. Starting something new requires energy and initiative, but once set in motion, momentum takes charge and continues to move us forward. Once we start, making positive alterations necessary for reaching our goals becomes easier.

To know how the concept of momentum functions, consider driving a car. When it is not moving, it can be difficult to get it to move. However, as soon as the car is moving, steering becomes effortless, regardless of the speed.

Yet, momentum alone is not the sole ally in our pursuit of mastering the slight edge.

While momentum propels us forward, its progress can be hindered if we fail to complete what we began. Pilling up unfinished activities, like incomplete projects, unpaid bills, and unfulfilled promises, can hinder us from getting the achievement that comes with completing tasks.

Unfinished tasks can drag us back into the past and away from the route to success. If this is something you experience, why not use the help of the slight edge to defeat it? Similar to a child who is learning how to walk, focus on dealing with one project first, and soon, you’ll feel that satisfaction that accompanies completion.

If you find it hard to finish a task, reflection which is our our third ally, can provide valuable insights into aspects where improvement is needed. Given life’s busyness, we usually spend more time engaging in activities than scrutinizing our actions.

To get the best of reflection, we can decide to have a day-to-day journal, speak to a like-minded friend regularly, or work together with a coach. Regardless of the chosen activity, ask yourself specific questions like What small yet crucial actions are needed for accomplishing my goals? Did I complete them? What path am I on, is it that of success or failure?

Reflection not only identifies areas for improvement but also highlights the things we are doing well. This naturally leads to celebration which is our fourth ally. It is good to celebrate achievement because there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with that, it inspires us to perform even better. Regardless of how small they may seem, have a time to celebrate your successes. Essentially, nothing fosters success like more success.

Chapter 6 – Develop positive and productive routines that empower you to navigate through any situation and accomplish your aspirations.

All of us experience the challenges that come with stopping bad habits even though we try our best. Here’s a suggestion: The simplest method to eliminate a bad habit is to change it with a positive one.

Having positive habits is essential for achieving our dreams; however, creating them needs action.

Regardless of our level of skill, experience, knowledge, or resources, they only are effective when we do something. This is the reason why the first habit we have to instill is showing up. As written by Ralph Waldo Emerson the American essayist, “Do the thing, and you shall possess the power.”

To remain on the route to success, there are seven crucial habits to adopt: showing up; being consistent; fostering a positive perspective; committing for the long term; nurturing a fervent desire supported by faith; being willing to make sacrifices; and practicing the slight-edge honesty.

Although showing up is great, the most important thing to do is to be consistent with it. 

Consistently showing up can be improved by having a positive mindset. Studies indicate that individuals with a positive mindset tend to achieve greater success.

Enduring commitment over the long term is crucial as well. Rather than anticipating immediate success, patience is essential – just like a farmer who understands the necessity of waiting for an entire season to harvest.

Another commendable habit to develop is desire. However, we don’t want the kind of desire that goes away as soon as we accomplish our goal. Instead, we want the kind that is a  profound, fervent longing connected with the belief that the goal is attainable.

Everything has a cost, and to accomplish our goals, we must be prepared to pay the price. This might involve something as basic as forsaking a kind of unhealthy food or adopting a routine of waking early. Regardless of the sacrifice made for success, the repercussions of failure are significantly more severe.

Ultimately, it’s crucial to uphold integrity with the slight-edge principle. Ask yourself this question: Am I staying true to my commitments even when nobody is looking?

Chapter 7 – Achieving our dreams entails three actions-  jotting them down, reviewing them daily, and formulating a plan.

Each one of us has dreams, yet a lot doesn’t come to pass as a result of a lack of direction in pursuing them. Fortunately, there is a proven and straightforward strategy. The first key step in the strategy making our dreams into tangible reality.

We have to make use of our senses to effectively achieve that. This involves writing down our dreams or having a dream board with visual representations. Alternatively, we can also discuss our dreams with someone else.

However, while visualizing our dreams is strong, it is equally crucial to clearly define them.

For instance, if your goal is financial freedom, specifying the targeted amount of savings is good. Similarly, if you wish to be healthy, say the type of things you would have to partake in and how it feels. By having a specific and realistic goal, we move closer to making them into reality.

As defined by Napoleon Hill the American author, a goal is essentially a dream that comes with a deadline. Therefore, when jotting down your dreams, it’s crucial to add dates. This is significant because a substantial 80% of all our activities often get completed in the final 20% of the available time. Without setting a deadline, we may never make our dreams become a reality.

Jotting down your dream enables daily reflection. The act of repeatedly reminding yourself of your goal holds significant power. Instead of steering off course, you become more concentrated on your desired achievements.

The more we immerse ourselves in our goals, the more deeply they are absorbed in our subconscious minds. We become more aware of grabbing the opportunities aligned with our dreams. Simultaneously, it becomes easier to resist distractions that could otherwise lead us away from the path to success.

This paves the way for creating a plan, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a detailed roadmap covering every step from beginning to end. Instead, it should outline the initial steps to kickstart us. Recall the earlier mention of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “Do the thing, and then you shall have the power.” Similar to a baby taking her first step, all we need is to initiate the process, and momentum will continue moving us forward.

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson Book Review

Time can either work in your favor or against you. Consistently taking small, positive actions each day can lead to eventual success. Conversely, neglecting the routine aspects of life may hinder the achievement of your goals.

Be among successful individuals.

There’s a saying that goes thus, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This happens because they are going on the same path. Likewise, if you wish to be successful, assess the direction of those around you. Our immediate connections have a significant influence on us. If those closest to us are headed for failure, we may find ourselves on the same path. Conversely, if they are on the road to success, that will likely be our destination too.

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