When you look at someone like Elon Musk, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Bill Gates, it’s easy to be intimated. It’s easy to think that they were just born with some sort of supernatural gift that none of us have.
But the truth is, that every single one of us has just as much potential as they do—we just aren’t taught how to cultivate it. The school system and our parents fail us. They don’t teach us the secrets to success.
The secret to cultivating your dream life, lies within a very simple concept known as the slight edge.
Jeff Olson: Why Most People Fail
In his book, The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson talks about why some people seem to constantly achieve their dreams, while others fail one time after another. What’s the difference?
The difference, put simply, is that the habits which lead to success are actually very easy to do, but also very easy to not do. The same habits that YOU KNOW will make you successful, are very easy to just skip for the day (which often turns into never doing them at all).
For example, take some of the habits that lead to success:
- Reading every day for 30 minutes
- Walking briskly for 15 minutes a day
- Choosing to snack on an apple
- Choosing to call an existing client for a sale
They’re pretty easy to do. But unfortunately, they’re also very easy not to do. It takes much less effort to:
- Watch Netflix instead of reading
- Sit on your couch instead of go for a walk
- Munch on some potato chips
- Tell yourself you’ll call that client tomorrow
In short, people fail because the things that lead to success are easy to do…but they’re also very easy not to do.
How easy is it to just read a phenomenal book for 30 minutes a day? Pretty easy. Just make it a part of your evening routine. But, how easy is it NOT to do that and just watch TV instead? Pretty easy, as well.
How easy is it to utilize Pareto’s Law for productivity? Pretty easy. But how easy is it to just do what you want to do, without rhyme or reason? Even easier. Do you see the point?
The Slight Edge is Compounded Over Time
While it may not seem like a lot if you just decide to take it easy for a day or two, over time this actually has a massive effect. Just improving yourself by .1% every single god damn day, will add up tremendously over time.
To illustrate this point, let us point to an example in investing:
- Say that, like me, you decided to start investing in the stock market when you were 18. You did a ton of research, constantly fine-tuned your strategy, and invested in the right stocks over time. You put $1,000 into the stock market, but only managed to get a measly 1% per day.
- All of your friends laugh at you. “Really, dude? 1% a day? That’s it? Fuck that—I’m spending my $1,000 pay check on a new sound system for my car.”
- That tiny little 1% increase per day? After 1 year your $1,000 will be worth $3,650 (and that’s not even compounded interest).
- After 5 years that measly $1,000 will be worth $674,834. Yes, that’s right—over half a million dollars.
This kind of monetary gain is very easily possible, seeing that I tripled my money in 5 months after Brexit sent gold prices through the roof.
Another illustration of this effect has to do with habits that improve you by just 1% every day.
Two Slight Edge Examples: Jon and Jerry
To use an example of the slight edge in action, let’s use two people named Jon and Jerry. Say that Jon is a pretty average guy, but he stumbles across my blog one day. He decides that it’s about time to start changing his life. He’s fed up with his driving his 1983 Toyota Camry, getting into arguments with his bitchy girlfriend, and working his dead-end job.
Then, there’s Jerry. Jerry doesn’t like his life either, but he’s just a lazy sack of shit who would rather put others down instead of pull himself up. Let’s contrast these two men and see how their “slight edge habits” play out in the long run.
Jon spends just 30 minutes a day reading a high quality book, while Jerry decides to spend that 30 minutes watching an episode of Family Guy every night after work.
The difference might not be apparent at first, but over time, the slight edge will take its course:
- After 1 month, Jon might seem a little bit smarter, but not by that much.
- After 6 months, Jon is much more focused, organized, and is starting to have a better vocabulary. He can articulate his thoughts much easier.
- After 1 year, Jon’s can easily articulate difficult concepts and thoughts, apply different theories to his work, and recall examples from books and how they relate to the problems at hand. Jon’s boss notices this and gives him a promotion.
- This promotion allows Jon to save up some money, and after 2 years he quits his job and starts a consulting company from scratch.
- After 5 years, Jon is a millionaire, because his constant thirst for knowledge has led him to have a better understanding of business, the stock market, human psychology, and various ways of seeing the world. It’s not only allowed him to improve his business strategies, but also his relationships, his health, and his lifestyle.
Do you see how something as simple as reading 30 minutes a day can have such a massive effect when compounded over time? This is the power of the slight edge.
Meanwhile, Jerry is still stuck working the same old job, arguing with his ugly girlfriend, and 6 months behind on his credit card bills. Yet, he continues to “relax at the end of a long day’s work,” by watching Family Guy, not realizing that he’s the one causing the problems in his life.
Say that Jon decides to spend 30 minutes meditating every day. Again, at first he won’t notice much of a difference, but compounded over time, the slight edge that meditation gives him will be drastic:
- After 1 month, Jon is a little bit calmer – when his girlfriend starts bitching at him, he doesn’t grow angry as quickly.
- After 6 months, Jon has very good frame control. When his girlfriend starts shit testing him, it doesn’t arouse his emotions.
- After 1 year, Jon is no longer depressed or anxious. Rather than feeling sorry for himself, he begins to improve other areas of his life.
- After 2 years, Jon has a better girlfriend, a better job, and a better body, because he’s become so in touch with himself that he’s realized he needs to drastically change his life if he wants to be happy. There is no ego involved in his actions, he simply does what he wants regardless of what others will think of him.
Do you see the point? Any activity that’s good for you, even if you only do it for 15-30 minutes a day, will add up over time to create a massive difference in your life. This is the power of the slight edge.
Again, say that Jerry decides to watch his daily episode of Family Guy instead of meditating. Rather than being in a calm, collected, state of mind after a while, he’ll still be in the same place as before.
When his girlfriend starts arguments, he’ll lose his shit and start screaming and yelling at her. He’ll be depressed and anxious all of the time, and won’t know why. He’ll be stuck working the same dead end job for the rest of his life, all the while blaming “the system” for his own lack of action.
Let’s say that Jon decides to make a little bit bigger of a commitment – he decides to integrate my “Body of an Alpha” workout routine into his life. Jon is a scrawny little man, and he’s fed up with it. He’s fed up with feeling insecure in his own body and he decides to make a change. He decides to use the slight edge to his advantage.
Jon tells his friends that he’s going to start working out, and they laugh at him:
- “Haha, dude that’s so dumb, you aren’t going to have any time to hang out with us.”
- “Bro that’s a waste of time.”
- “Dude girls hate muscle heads.”
- “Come on man, you have to learn to relax every once and a while.”
But Jon is committed—he starts working out. At first, he doesn’t notice that much, but eventually he’ll reap the rewards. This is the slight edge in action: little efforts each day compounded over time.
- After a couple weeks Jon is a good bit stronger. He starts focusing on eating better, because he’s going to the gym so he might as well eat healthy, too.
- After 6 months Jon has put on a huge amount of muscle—he starts to act more confidently around others and he notices his friends start to give him shit for being a “meat head.”
- After 1 year Jon realizes that his friends are pathetic and weak, so he leaves them behind, makes friends with the guys at the gym, and develops a genuine camaraderie based around self-improvement with them.
- After 5 years, Jon’s strength has bled into every area of his life: he no longer accepts “I’m too tired,” as an excuse to bitch out. He has developed an iron will and does what is necessary to succeed.
8 Slight Edge Principles & Habits
In reality, there’s a lot of slight edge habits. The slight edge can be applied to nearly every area of your life:
- Investing early
- Eating healthy
- Working out
- Meditating every day
- Reading every night
- Taking pride in your appearance
- Going the extra mile at work
- Practicing positive self-talk
There’s a million ways to effectively utilize the slight edge into your life, but remember: it also works the opposite way. If you have tiny little habits that are bad, they’ll also effect your life in a negative way compounded over time.
Jerry Eats Unhealthy
To refer back to the “Jon and Jerry” example, let’s say that Jerry likes to have some ice cream every night. “It’s not that big of a deal,” he says. “Yeah, it’s not that great for me, but I mean come on! You have to live a little, right?”
Here’s what will happen to Jerry due to the negative slight edge:
- Immediately, his performance will be sluggish. He won’t have as much mental or physical energy because ice cream is loaded with artificial garbage that saps your performance and puts stress on your body.
- After 3 months he’ll start to gain some weight—this will make it more difficult to even move around or be active.
- After a year he’ll stop caring about his appearance in general, because he’s already pretty fat. He won’t shave as often, he won’t get a haircut as often, and he won’t bother buying clothes that fit really well.
- After 5 years he’ll be in the same place he was before financially—nothing will improve, because he doesn’t have enough energy to work hard and improve his monetary situation.
- After 10 years his doctor will tell him that he has high cholesterol and is at risk for heart disease. He’ll have to go on some medication with a ton of side effects to prevent him from having a heart attack.
If Jerry just stopped eating the fucking ice cream every night, this could have all been avoided. But that’s the point. Now, he’s stuck in a negative self-amplifying feedback loop.
The slight edge is easy to use positively, but it’s easy to use negatively, too. Slight edge habits are easy to do, but they’re easy not to do. Eating an apple instead is pretty easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do. It’s easy to eat ice cream instead and just not eat the apple.
Jerry Watches TV Instead of Reading
Instead of reading a high quality book, Jerry decides to watch TV for 2 hours every night.
He justifies it in all sorts of ways:
- “Everyone else does it, I’m just doing what’s normal.”
- “I’ve had a long day at work, I deserve to relax.”
- “Enjoying life is important! I don’t want to burn out.”
But the fact of the matter is that Jerry has a negative slight edge habit—one that has a very small negative effect, but compounded over time will be quite drastic.
- After a month nothing really changes, so Jerry keeps watching TV.
- After several months nothing really changes, so Jerry keeps watching TV.
- After a year, he starts to get fatter, but doesn’t really care, so he keeps watching TV.
- When he’s on his deathbed, Jerry realizes that he’s wasted hours and hours every day watching TV squandering his gifts when he could have been doing something productive and living an amazing life.
And do you know what’s sad? This is 99% of Americans. Most of us waste our lives away watching TV. Most of us aren’t even living.
TV is one of those sneaky little slight edge habits that works against you, because unlike eating ice cream or smoking, it won’t really cause anything bad to happen. It’ll just cause you to stagnate and stay where you’re at.
One day you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve done absolutely nothing with your life, because instead of watching TV for 2 hours every night you could have spent those 2 hours:
- Building a blog, like me
- Working on developing a client base for consulting
- Launching an eBook, trying to escape the rat race by earning $100 per day
- Writing that book that you’ve always dreamt about writing
- Taking up a new hobby, like playing the piano or painting
Don’t Succumb to Negative Slight Edge Habits!
Some of the slight edge habits that are negative include:
- Eating unhealthy
- Getting into arguments with loved ones
- Watching TV
- Doing drugs (unless it’s for introspective purposes)
I want you to scan your life for any of these habits right now—they’re a lot sneakier than you think.
It’s very easy to let them slip into your life without you even realizing it. But I want you to ask yourself a question: if you don’t stop this habit right now, what will it end up costing you in 5 years? If the answer is something bad, then get rid of the fucking habit.
Now, don’t misunderstand me—there’s a time and a place to relax. Human beings need rest, but 99% of people need to work more than they do to rest. Only very high achievers need rest.
Sometimes it’s good to have some ice cream with your girlfriend or to relax and watch a movie, but the point is that it isn’t a habit. It’s just something that you do every now and then (like a few times a month rather than every day).
Utilize Positive Slight Edge Habits!
Some positive slight edge habits include:
- Eating healthy snacks
- Working out 3-5x a week
- Going for a brisk walk every night
- Practicing positive self-talk
- Doing yoga
- Playing chess with a friend once a week
- Investing 10% of your salary into some good stocks
Literally anything that, over time, will lead to a positive change in your life, is considered a slight edge habit. The best slight edge habits, like lifting weights or eating good food, will create a noticeable impact within just a few weeks. Others might take longer, like reading or investing, but you should still do them, too.
But remember—good slight edge habits are just as easy to do as they are to not do!
The next time you hear yourself saying “Ehhh, maybe I’ll just do it next time—I’m tired.” I want you to slap yourself in the fucking face, stop being a bitch, and do what it is that you don’t want to do.
If you spend that extra 30 minutes a day improving yourself by just 1%, within a year you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors. I hope that you choose to use the advice that I’m giving you, because either way, the slight edge is working in your life. You just have to decide if it works for you, or against you.
Before you go, take massive action and answer these questions, either on a piece of paper, or in the comments section below:
- What’s one negative slight edge habit that’s been hurting your chances of success?
- What’s one good slight edge habit that you could replace it with?
It really is crazy how the little things add up overtime. The sooner this lesson is learned the more it can be put to use. Everyone always say “Man if I knew what I knew now in highschool, how different things would be”.
Things like working out instead of watching TV, reading a good informative book instead of mindlessly browsing social media, talking to cute girls instead of watching porn, and so on and so forth.
A good portion of the difference between the 1% and 99% can be attributed to small things so as daily habits.
Great writeup will have to check this book out, get so many good book recommendations from this site. In addition to great content of course!
Haha very true. I’ve been meditating, working out, etc. for years now, and the difference between me and some of my old friends is MASSIVE.
I read this and I agree with how the ‘bad’ habits can infiltrate. Watching sports on tv, drinking a beer (become a daily habit), etc. Thx for this book write-up, I will start back on good habits!
The Slight Edge is indeed one of the hidden diamonds of mindset. I was lucky enough to hear from Jeff Olson starting in 2003.