We’ve all heard of compound interest in finances. Leave a sum of money in a fund and gradually, you’ll earn some interest. After a while, not only you’ll earn interest on the initial sum, but you’ll also be making interest on the interest. It’s compounding over itself. After 7 years, you’ll have at least doubled your initial sum. That’s a concept we all know and understand for our finances, even if we don’t always put it to use. But did you know that you could harness the power of compound interest in every area of your life? That is the power of the Slight Edge principle.
The Slight Edge is a concept that author and entrepreneur Jeff Olson has published back in 2005 in a book by the same name. I have just finished reading the book that I devoured in record time. I have to say that I have been blown away by 1) the simplicity of its concept and 2) by the incredible amount of power its application will give me over each area of my life. But before I share with you the essence of the Slight Edge, let me share what the success curve is.
The Slight Edge Success Curve
Jeff Olson explains that every decision you take or have ever taken in your life will put you somewhere on the success curve. Choosing to eat a salad at lunch will bring success to your health. A cheeseburger ; on the failure curve. Your every decisions, compounded over time, propel you further up the curve. At first, the curve looks like a straight line. Eating a salad will not bring the scale down one bit. But a salad a day for a month will. Same thing for the cheeseburger. The longer you keep making the same decisions, the highest (or worst) result you’ll get.
The small decisions you take are easy to do, but equally as easy not to do. It’s easy to believe, when you’re on the first stretch of the curve, that your decisions do not have an impact. Skipping my workout this morning? This surely doesn’t change anything! But you can’t be more wrong. That’s why only 5% of people actually achieve their goals. 95% of people think that their small decisions do not have an impact. But the 5% know that every time they make a good choice, the curve goes up. That’s where the Slight Edge really works. In the micro-decisions you’ll be taking every day and in the simple habits you will build, consistently over time.
The Slight Edge equation
So what is the Slight Edge? It is simple disciplines applied consistently over time that create massive results. Things as simple as working out 15 minutes a day. Or reading 10 pages of a personal development book. Or waking up 30 minutes earlier to work on your most important project. Simple things. But the key here is consistency and time. As we saw earlier, one salad will not make a difference. A salad a day for a month will.
Consistent repeated habits + time = unconquerable results
But what will inspire you to take that simple action each day? Where does the motivation come from to do the work consistently? It comes from a proper philosophy. Reading inspiring books such as the Slight Edge will help build a positive philosophy. Being aware of the impact of your decisions over time can be a strong motivator to take action. I like to work at improving my philosophy in any way I can, either by reading inspiring books, listening to motivational audio such as podcasts or improving my circle of influence. Choose your way of improving your philosophy and the rest will follow.
Here’s the equation for success that Jeff Olson laid out :
Your philosophy creates your attitudes, which creates your actions, which creates your results, which creates your life.
It all starts with the way you think.
There are no overnight success.
Do you think that there’s anything like an overnight success? We tend to believe that successful people got to where they are easily and rapidly. But what you haven’t seen is the hours, the years of effort they have put before, honing their craft and building their skills. Jeff Olson wrote :
“No success is immediate, no collapse is sudden. They are both a result of the Slight Edge over time.”
You have to work for success, relentlessly, even when the success curve is just a flat line. One day, the curve goes up, and you get there. But it takes effort, and faith in the process, to eventually get there.
How to get to where you want to go
Olson has laid out a 5 step plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be, using the Slight Edge principle :
1. Invest in your personal development
As we said earlier, success starts first in the way you think. That’s why it’s important to create a positive philosophy for yourself to help you grow and make the right choices. Olson suggests, as the first habit for your Slight Edge, to read 10 pages a day of a good personal development. Ten pages will only take you a few minutes, but over a year, you’ll have read 12 life-changing books. Choose titles such as The Slight Edge, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey or get inspired by the book reviews I post on the blog each month. You can browse my previous reviews to get you started. I also created a list of 10 personal development books that had a profound impact in my life in a handy PDF. You can get it for free here.
Podcasts are a great way to digest positive information during your commute hours, while doing chores or preparing dinner. Every occasion is a good one to transform your philosophy and your outlook on life.
2. Improve your circle of influence
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” -Jim Rohn
You have probably heard this famous quote a thousand times already. But have you acted upon it? Jim Rohn says that your income, your personal development, your health, will reflect the average of the 5 people you choose to spend most of your time with. Are your friends healthy, wealthy, happy the way you want to be? Are they bringing you negativity or are they lifting yourself up? If you find that your circle of influence is not as positive and uplifting as you would need, maybe it is time to re-prioritize the time you spend with your friends. You do not necessarily need to cut the cords, except in cases of very toxic relationships, but you can decide to reduce the time you spend with the ones who bring you down. If you do not feel like there are uplifting people in your life, you can start exploring new ways to make friends. There are many associations, meetup groups and seminars that you can attend to meet the kind of people you want in your life. Show up with your most radiant smile, and get connecting with your tribe.
3. Emulate your mentors
A mentor can be someone you meet on a regular basis to discuss your goals and learn from his or her success. Choose mentors that have already accomplished the things you are aiming for and approach them to develop a mentoring relationship. If it is not possible for your to find a mentor, you can emulate influencers that inspire you in your field. I wrote an article about how Gretchen Rubin has become my virtual mentor. Who’s inspiring you? The important point is to implement your mentor’s advice and apply it to the achievement of your goals.
4. Specify your goals
First, you need to know what success means to you and that means setting up goals. Jeff Olson has a very simple 3 steps process for setting goals :
- Make it specific and write it down : Define your goal as precisely as you can. Determine what you want to accomplish and set a deadline. “I want to lose 10 pounds by October 31st” can be an example of specific goal. You can choose as many goals as you like, in each area of your life. Personally, I try to set between 3 to 5 goals every quarter by first determining the pain areas in my life and choosing goals for the most pressing ones. By writing your goals down, you’re saying to yourself that this is something important to you that you want to achieve. This is one of the most critical points of goal setting. To learn more about my planning process, you can read this article.
- Look at it every day : Keep your goals in mind to reinforce the idea that this is something important to you. You can look at your goals list during your morning routine to start your day empowered, or you can paste them to your fridge, your bathroom mirror, and even create a wallpaper for your desktop. Anything that works for you to keep your goals in mind.
- Have a plan : Draft a simple plan of how to get to your goal. Choose something small that will get you started and bring you on the path to success. Choose a simple habit for each goal that you will incorporate in your daily routine to get the ball rolling. That is the Slight Edge implemented to your specific goal. It doesn’t need to be something huge. Small habits over time will create massive success.
5. Build your habit
The whole point of the Slight Edge is to build simple habits repeated consistently. Once you have a clear plan of how to achieve your goals, your results will be defined by the choices you make each day. Remember, your habits are easy to do, but equally easy not to do. The power is in your hands to take action or not. Every time you will choose to repeat your habit, you will move forward on the success curve. Keep at it, and slowly but surely, you will achieve your goals.
Now it’s your turn to act. Let me know in the comments below what goal you would like to achieve and what one simple habit you can implement to get there. I hope that you will try the Slight Edge principle in your own life and harness the power of this simple method! If you have enjoyed today’s article, I invite you to share it with a friend that might benefit from it. You can signup for my mailing list to stay informed of the latest articles and follow me on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates. Until next Tuesday, go take action, and achieve success!