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THE SLIGHT EDGE - JEFF OLSON


  1. The Beach Bum and the Millionaire

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Super achiever

  • I was going to forever leave behind the land of mediocrity and start inhabiting the world of high achievement.

  • Everything is in motion, always. Everything changes.

  • Simply daily disciplines

2. The First Ingredient

“Do the thing, and you shall have the power.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • the secret ingredient is your philosophy.

  • The formula for success is quite simple: Double your rate of failure.

  • Successful people fail their way to the top.

  • Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.

  • There is a natural progression to everything in life: plant, cultivate, harvest.

  • Your philosophy creates your attitudes, which create your actions, which create your results, which create your life.

  • Successful people fail their way to the top.

3. The Choice

  • “The eighth wonder of the world”

  • -the remarkable creative force of compound interest

  • It’s never too late to start.

  • It’s always too late to wait.

4. Master the Mundane

  • “Work expands to fill the time available for its complextion.” - Parkinson’s Law

  • Why people don’t do slight edge habits

    • They’re easy to do = also easy not to do

    • The results are invisible

      • Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. “Progressive” means success is a process, not a destination.


  • They seem insignificant


5. Slow Down to Go Fast

“Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour. (Rome wasn’t built in a day.)” - Ancient French proverb

The Power of Time

  • consistently repeated daily actions + time = inconquerable results.

  • You supply the actions; the universe will supply the time. The trick is to choose the actions that, when multiplied by this universal amplifier, will yield the result you want. To position your everyday actions so time works for you, and not against you.

There Is No Instant Life

  • Plant, cultivate, harvest

  • Life is not a clickable link

  • Thousands of years ago, Lao Tzu wrote, “The highest good is like water. It gives life to the ten thousand things (that’s ancient Chinese for “everything in the universe”), yet does not compete with them. It flows in places that the mass of people detest - and therefore it is close to the Tao.”

The Power of Compounding Effort

  • good to great

Cultivating Patience

  • Pioneers don’t know what’s out there, but out there, they go anyway.

  • Courage means to have a purpose and to have heart.

  • But in my experience, in three to five years you can put virtually anything in your life solidly onto the right track.

  • 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.

  • The slight edge is all about living in the moment. For me, this is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn about the slight edge: you can’t find it in the past of the future, only right here, right now.

  • Your life exists on in the moment.

  • you absorb and live that truth simply by being fully in the process of living your life- not regretting the past, not dreading the future.

  • Knowing the secret of time, you say, “If I stay on this road long enough, I’ll get the result I’m seeking.” It’s not a question of your mood or your feelings. And it’s not a question of will power. It’s a question of simply knowing

  • *The light switch - you know

How to Achieve the Impossible

  • Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nasen

    • The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.


  • Ten Core Values

    • Be real, be determined, pursue constant self-development, and dream big-and act on it daily.

    • The principle value = Slow down to go fast.


  • “I have faith that my daily habits will lead to either success or failure, and that the choice is mine. Pay attention to your daily habits and it will pay off.” - Jeremy T.

  • Time is the force that magnifies those simple daily disciplines into massive success.

6. Don’t Fall for the Quantum Leap

I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.” -Coleman Cox

  • There is no “some day”. There’s only today. When tomorrow comes, it will be another today: so will the next day. They all will. There is never anything but today.

  • You’re looking for the winning lottery ticket in a game that isn’t the lottery.

Why Bank Presidents Never Win the Lottery

  • 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.

  • It’s not preparednss meeting opportunity; it’s preparedness, period.

  • Luck is when that constancy of preparedness eventually creates opportunity.

Magic Bullets and Miracles

  • Can you imagine if every first grader was required to start reading ten pages of a good book a day?

  • “You want a miracle, Bruce? Be the miracle.”

7. The Secret of Happiness

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” -Albert Schweitzer

  • Apply the slight edge to 4 big areas of life: health, wealth, personal development, and relationships.

  • positive psychology = the science of happiness

And the pursuit…. Make that the Realization of Happiness

  • Life means your health. The healthier you are, the more life you experience.

  • Happiness doesn’t come from genetics, luck, or chance.

  • Happiness has a lot less to do with the circumstances than we think it does.

  • Happiness isn’t the result of some big out-of-reach event or attainment.

  • Happiness is created by simple, easy things we do every day.

  • And unhappiness is created by not doing those simple, easy, everyday things.

  • Lets frame our definition of success as: life (health), liberty (financial freedom), and the realization of happiness

  • How you realize happiness is by doing some simple things, and doing them every day.

Happiness Comes First

  • happy doesn’t just make you happier. It also makes your life work better.

  • The secret of happiness, and not the secret to happiness.

  • People who are happier:

    • have fewer strokes and heart attacks

    • have less pain and inflammation

    • have greater immune function and more resistance to viruses

    • develop more resilient personalities and handle adversity better

    • have better work performances and more professional success

    • have more fulfilling and longer-lasting marriages

    • have larger and more active social spheres

    • are more involved in their communities

    • are more altruistic and have a greater net positive impact on society


  • “Be happy, and the reason will appear.”

The Words You Use May Predict How Long You’ll Live

The Key to Making the Slight Edge Work

  • the right philosophy -> the right attitude -> the right actions

  • Slight edge + happy habits = success

Happy Habits

  • Each morning, write down three things you’re grateful for.

  • Journal for two minutes a day about one positive experience you’ve had over the past twenty-four hours

  • Meditate daily

  • Do a random act of kindness over the course of each day

  • Exercise for fifteen minutes daily

Other research

  • Make more time for friends

  • Practice savoring the moment

  • Practice having a positive perspective

  • Put more energy into cultivating your relationships

  • Practice forgiveness

  • Engage in meaningful activities

  • Practice simple acts of giving

  • Read at least 10 pages of a good book a day.

Personal Stories

  • looking for and finding something positive in every situation, no matter what.

  • I had created a personal mission statement

  • I kept three different journals: one about my wife, one about my kids, and one about my life.

8. The Ripple Effect

  • I knew I could surpass them just by consistently showing up and doing the work.

The Price of Success

  • Growth creates abundance, and that abundance in turn creates responsibility

9. But You Have to Start with a Penny

A Penny for Your Thoughts

  • Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • But successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do

  • A penny saved is a penny earned.

  • Greatness is always in the moment of the decision.

  • What you do matters

  • 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.

Part II - Living The Slight Edge

10. Two Life Paths

Everything Curves

  • The geometry of time

  • Successful people understand that time is their friend. In every choice I make, every course of action I take, I always have time in mind: time is my ally.

  • Life is a curved construction; time is its builder, and choice its master architect.

  • Social science research says that as a child, you heard the word “no” about 40,000 times by the age of five, before you even started first grade. And how many times had you heard the word “yes”? About 5,000. That’s eight times as many nos as yeses. Eight times the force holding you down, compared to the force lifting you up. Eight times the gravity against your desire to soar.

  • For things to change, you’ve got to change. For things to get better, you’ve got to get better. It’s easy to do. But then, it’s just as easy not to do.

Blame and Responsibility

  • They understand that it is not what happens to them that’s important, but how they respond to what happens that makes the difference between their failure and success.

  • What you think, multiplied by action plus time, will create what you get

Where Are You Headed?

  • Easy To Do - Simple disciplines made consistently over time

    • Responsibility / Discipline

    • Value Driven

    • What’s uncomfortable early becomes comfortable later


  • Easy Not To Do - Simple errors in judgement

    • Blame / Neglect

    • Entitled

    • What’s comfortable early becomes uncomfortable later


  • You are in motion - you have no choice in that. But motion in which direction? You have total choice in that

  • You are either improving or diminishing in personal and professional value.

  • Success in one area breeds success in every area

11. Mastering the Slight Edge

“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is the definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.” - Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

  • Mastery is in the act of setting your foot on the path, not in reaching its end.

Closing the Gap

  • Visions and visionaries make people uncomfortable

  • The size of the problem determines the size of the person

  • You can gague the limitations of a person’s life by the side of the problems that get him or her down.

  • The size of your income will be determined by the size of the problems you solve, too.

  • There are only two possibilities. Either you let go of where you are and get to where you could be, or you hang onto where you are and give up where you could be.

The Deceptive Majority

  • When you’re one out of twenty, you’re always going to be going in the opposite direction from the other nineteen.

  • This means changing your thinking about the comfort zone. It’s a change in philosophy. It means embracing living uncomfortably in order to attain a life that is genuinely comfortable - not deceptively comfortable.

  • “All truth passes through three stages.” “First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident.” - The great German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer

  • Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

  • The key to success is to identify those things that are eventually going to become self-evident before they are self-evident. Or to put it even more simply: find out what the majority is doing and do the opposite - which can be uncomfortable.

  • The chances are excellent, though, that when you do step up onto the success curve, you will be stepping out alone.

  • “I knew that this simple little error, compounded over time, would rob me of all my dreams.”

  • “I had to move from a life of entitlement to a life of responsibility.”

  • Wanting is uncomfortable, yet wanting is essential to winning.

  • Chances are good that when you step out onto the path of mastery, you will step out alone.

  • There are two ways to close the gap between when you are and where you want to before: 1) you can let go of where you are and be drawn to your goal, or 2) you can let go of your goal, hit the snooze button, and stay where you are.

12. Invest in Yourself

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” - Abraham Lincoln

  • John Maxwell, Jack Canfield, Zig Ziglar, or Jim Rohn? Or The Happiness Advantage, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • The average American will go bowling 233 times in his or her life - and they all have something better to do. I know bowling is one of the most popular pastimes in the United States, but wouldn’t you rather have success be your most popular pastime?

  • Life is not a spectator sport; as a matter of fact, it’s a contact sport.

  • Do the thing, and you shall have the power.

  • But note: The journey starts with a single step - not with thinking about taking a step.

  • Life is doing. If you aren’t doing, you’re dying.

The Rhythm of Learning

  • “Knowledge without practice is useless',” Said Confucius, “And practice without knowledge is dangerous.”

Course Correction

  • Thomas Watson’s philosophy about failure.

  • Would you like me to give you the formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure… You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure - or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the other side of failure.

Your Internal Gyroscope

  • You’re having coffee with friends and they start complaining about their work, their bosses, their jobs - click, click, whirrrr - and you find a way to change the subject, because you know that if the talk doesn’t get onto a positive track within another sixty seconds, you’ll have to find a reason to excuse yourself.

  • You, through the power of your own thoughts, are the most influencial person in your life. Which means there is nobody more effective at undermining your success - and nobody more effective at supporting your success.

  • The sobering fact is, you do 99.99 percent of everything you do on automatic pilot.

  • The sobering fact is, we all do 99.99 percent of our lives on automatic pilot.

  • What determines where you end up? It’s all a question of what route you have programmed into your subconscious.

  • You create it first with intention, with your conscious mind.

  • Click, click, whirrrrr…..

  • The wisest investment you can make is to invest in your own continuous learning and development.

13. Learn from Mentors

  • Go study with a master.

  • If you want to learn how to do something well, go find someone who has already mastered that skill, and apprentice yourself.

  • It’s essential.

Choose Your Heroes

  • The quickest and surest path to raising the quality of your life is to start hanging out with people who have been there and done that.

  • Write down a list and examine it.

  • Ask yourself, “Can I become like them? Are these people doing kinds of things that I aspire to do and living the kinds of lives that I aspire to live? Can they really help me become who I want to become?”

The Law of Association

  • Your income tends to equal the average of the incomes of your five best friends.

  • Your level of health will tend to be about the average level of health of your five best friends.

  • Become acutely aware of who you are modelling.

  • Look at the people with whom you flock, the company you keep: what destination are they headed for? And is that where you want to be headed?

  • This is a pass or fail test; there is no maybe about it. Remember, there is no standing still. Everything curves. We’re all going in one of two directions, either up or down.

  • How can you tell?

    • Responsibility and blame

    • When you and this particular friend get together, are your conversations about responsibility, big dreams, and bold initiatives? Or do they often seem to work their way around to blame or its cousins - envy, jealousy, resentment, and irritation?

  • Dis-empowering or Empowering

  • We’re either building our own dreams - or building our nightmares

Sometimes You Need to Run the Other Direction

  • Givers & Takers

  • You can’t afford to have people around you who are consistently acting as a drag on your positive outlook.

  • “here’s how I see it. There’s one born every minute, and the sad thing is, most of them live. And here’s the thing: you’re not going to change them. But what you can do is run the other direction.”

  • There’s nothing compassionate about letting yourself get sucked into a vortex of negativity.

  • By “disassociation” I don’t necessarily mean cutting them out of your lfie completely. But casual relationships deserve casual time- not quality time.

Form a Mastermind

  • Remember that you’re always dealing with gravity: one against nineteen, all the time.

14. Use Your Slight Edge Allies

“Be not afraid of going slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” - Chinese proverb

Use the Power of Momentum

  • Newton’s second law of thermodynamics: a body at rest tends to stay at rest - and a body in motion tends to remain in motion.

Use the Power of Completion

  • Each and every incomplete thing in your life or work exerts a draining force on you.

  • Incomplete things keep calling you back to the past to take care of them.

  • Here’s the unfortunate and powerfully destructive truth of being incomplete: it keeps the past alive.

  • Art Williams’ “All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough.” BOOK

  • So find something you can do, and do that. Make that phone call. Apologize. Clear out that basement. Write that letter. Give fifteen minutes to completing something every day.

Use the Power of Reflection

  • Doing things won’t create your success; doing the right things will.

  • Instead of writing down what you’re going to do, write down at the end of the day what you did do that day.

  • Did you tell someone “I appreciate you”?

Use the Power of Celebration

  • “People who feel good about themselves produce good results.”

  • They urged the managers and business pwners not to walk around trying to catch people doing something wrong, but to “catch them doing something right,” and then acknowledge it on the spot. They called this a “one minute praising.”

15. Cultivate Slight Edge Habits

“Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” - Charles Reade

  • It becomes automatic

  • the power of habit

  • So the question is: which behaviours do you want to have take on a life of their own?

Changing Steel Cables of Behaviour

  • “Nothing is stronger than habit.” - Roman poet Ovid

  • It’s only by bringing a habit into your conscious awareness that you can observe what it’s doing, how it empowers and serves you.

  • Replace the unwanted habit with another habit that you do want.

Habit #1: Show Up

  • When you talk with people who have accomplished whatever it is they’ve done, it is stunning how often they will tell you some version of this: I just decided to do it.

  • If you’ll just commit to showing up, that’s half the battle right there.

  • Wait and watch and work - and don’t give up.

Habit #2: Be consistent

Habit #3: Have a Positive Outlook

  • Attitude creates actions create results create destiny.

  • Habits of people who are healthiest and live the longest of anyone on the planet

    • Live an active life

    • cultivate purpose and a reason to wake up every morning

    • take time to de-stress (appreciation, prayer, etc.)

    • stop eating when they are 80% full

    • eat a diet emphasizing vegetables, especially beans

    • have moderate alcohol intake (especially dark red wine)

    • play an active role in a faith-based community

    • place a strong emphasis on family

    • are part of like-minded social circles with similar habits

  • Cultivating positive outlook does not mean you are always happy. It does not mean life never gets you down. It does not mean you walk around with an idiotic grin on your face even when you’re hurting, and it doesn’t mean living in denial, ignoring the realities of pain and struggle, or checking your brain at the door. People who cultivate a genuinely positive outlook go through tough times, too; when we’re cut, we bleed red blood just like everyone else

  • A habit of gratitude is one of the most common traits in consistently happier people

  • There is no way I can understand love if I haven’t felt the hurt of loneliness. I can’t know what good is and how good it feels, without knowing bad. I can’t feel happy and content without feeling the funk. Life is ebb and low. Everything curves.

Habit #4: Be Committed for the Long Haul

  • Showing up is essential.

  • Showing up consistently is powerful.

  • Showing up consistently with a positive outlook is even more powerful.

  • No matter what you are trying to accomplish, you need to ask yourself, and I willing to put in 10,000 hours or more to get what I want?

Habit #5: Cultivate a Burning Desire Backed by Faith

  • A burning desire backed by faith simply means deeply, passionately wanting to get somewhere and knowing - not hoping, not wishing, but knowing that you’re going to get there.

Habit #6: Be Willing to Pay the Price

  • Remember this: whatever price you pay, there’s a bigger price to pay for not doing it than the price for doing it.

  • It may take 5 years and 10,000 hours to put your success on track, but it takes a lifetime to fail.

Habit #7: Practice Slight Edge Integrity

  • What you do when no one is watching

  • And in that moment, you find out who you really are

16. Three Steps to Your Dreams

“First comes the thought; then organization of that thought into ideas and plans: then transformation of those plans into reality. The beggining as you will observe, is in your imagination.” - Napoleon Hill

  • For a goal to come true:

    • You must make it specific, give it a deadline, and write it down. You must look at it every day. You must have a plan to start with.

  • Step One: Write it Down

    • The most critical skill - envisioning

    • “Do or do not - there is no try”

    • Envisioning means making it real

    • Make a dream board

    • But at the very least write it down. The moment you do, it has started to become real.

    • Pick a dream you have any dream: your dream house, dream location, dream vacation, dream job, dream marriage, dream career. Write it down, describing it in just a few words, on the first line below.

    • It’s been said that goals are “dreams with deadline.”

  • Step Two: Look at it Every Day

    • The reason you need to look at them every day is the same reason you need to keep yourself in the company of positive people: you need to counteract the force of gravity. Or to put a different name on it, the force of mediocrity.

    • Remember, the odds are nineteen to one against you, and you need to constantly remind your brain where it is you’re headed or you’ll drift off the path of mastery and lose your way.

    • Autosuggestion: the power of regularly, consistantly telling and retelling yourself what your goals are.

    • On average, these people did this twice a day - every day

    • They knew they had to constantly feed their goals to their subconscious mind, so it would stay attuned to whatever came across their path that supported those goals, and ignore the distractions that detracted from it.

    • Surround ourselves with our own yeses. Surround yourself with messages that tell you that your dreams are real, your dreams are real, your dreams are real.

    • Not only are they possible: they are inevitable

    • Here is the amazing thing: when you clearly, tangibly set your goals, life has a way of rearranging itself, setting in motion a series of events that you could never have predicted or planned, to get you there.

  • Step Three: Start with a Plan

    • The point is not to come up with the brilliant blueprint that is guarenteed to take you all the way to the finish line. The point is simply to come up with a plan that will get you out of the starting gate.

    • You have to start with a plan, but the plan you start with will not be the plan that gets you there.

    • The power of a plan is not that it will get you there. The power of a plan is that it will get you started.

    • Tomorrow, you’ll still be on your lily pad with the other frogs. In fact, if you put too much energy into the plan and fuss around trying to make it perfect, you’re likely to squelch all the life, spontaneity, intuition, and joy out of the doing of it.

    • If you want twice the success, double your rate of failure.

    • You start with a plan, then go through the process of continuous learning through both study and doing, adjusting, all the time like a rocket ship on the way to the moon, off track 97 percent of the time, your gyroscopre feeding information to your dream computer to bring you back on track, and continuing on the path of mastery toward your passionately dreamed-for objective.

    • Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

    • This is why you need to have a plan to start with - but you cannot start with the plan that will get you there. You have to start with the philosophy that will take you there; with the right philosophy, you’ll find the plan.

    • “Well, I had no idea how. The only thing I knew how to do was to double my rate of failure.”

    • Do the thing and have the power.

    • “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

    • Take a bold step onto the path of mastery.

    • Everything you do, every decision you make, is either building your dream or building someone else’s dream.

    • I changed language from “can’t, maybe, don’t know” to “can, sure, I will figure it out.”

    • “What did you learn?”


17. Living the Slight Edge

  • “Gentlemen, this is a football.” - Vince Lombardi

  • There is nothing more basic to your life than your health, and there is no are of life where the slight edge is more vividly in operation, working either for you or against you.

  • The most significant factors in your happiness are your actions.

  • Your happiness is affected by

    • your outlook

    • specific actions with positive impact

    • where you put your time and energy

  • Here is the ironic truth of human existence: no matter how great our accomplishments, it is ultimately other people who give them meaning.

  • All the success in the world means little if there is no one to share it with.

  • Your income will never long exceed your own level of personal development.

  • Sigmund Freud was once asked what people need in order to be able to live a full and happy life. “Lieben und arbeiten.” (Love and work)

  • The 5 percent have learned one of the great secrets of long and happy life: loving your work.

  • Everything you do is important

18. Where to Go From Here

  • Successful people use inertia to build momentum, making their upward journey of success easier and easier.


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