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The Slight Edge Summary – Jeff Olson

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
The Slight Edge Summary
The Slight Edge (2005)

Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness

by Jeff Olson

A short, punchy, practical guide to the why, what and how of using simple daily disciplines to achieve breakthrough success – by serial entrepreneur, speaker and author, Jeff Olson.

Paperback | Ebook

This book summary is part of an ongoing project to summarise ~70 books on Productivity - for more, see the full reading list.

Perfect for you if:

  • You want a quick intro/recap to habit building;
  • You need some inspiration to keep showing up;
  • You wonder why you keep ending up back at square 1.

The Slight Edge Review

The Slight Edge is a short, punchy, practical guide to the power of simple daily disciplines.

If you enjoyed books like Atomic Habits, The Power of Habit or The Compound Effect, then you’ll enjoy Jeff Olson’s advice. This is another great take on the importance of getting small things right (and the consequences of getting them wrong).

It’s easy to digest. It’s well structured. It’s packed with case studies, quotes and recommended reading. It heavily influenced TAoL’s TRACKTION Planner

My verdict? At just 168 pages, whether you’re new to self-improvement or a fully-fledged productivity pro, it’s definitely worth a read. And if you’re still on the fence, or not sure why this is one of TAoL’s top productivity books of all time, here’s…


The Slight Edge Summary

I’ve split this Slight Edge summary into 4 sections:

Note: You’ll also find some book recommendations and quotes at the end of the post.


What Is The Slight Edge?

The Slight Edge is the advantage you get from showing up and repeating simple positive daily disciplines in every area of life, consistently over time.

It comes from the realisation that there’s no such thing as quick success. Difficult things take a little time. Impossible things take just a little longer. And waiting for things to fall in your lap only keeps you from taking the actions you need to create the results you want.

It’s based on the recognition that there is no such thing as luck. There is only preparedness meeting with opportunity. The more time you spend preparing, the more opportunities you can take advantage of and the more your luck increases.


Why Is The Slight Edge Important?

The Slight Edge is important because the the compound effect is deceptively powerful. Simple daily disciplines repeated consistently over time lead to big positive results. Simple errors in judgement lead to big negative results.

The Slight Edge Chart 1

For example, a 1% improvement every day (1% + 1% + 1%…) for a year leads to a 3.7x improvement. Meanwhile a compounded 1% improvement (1 x 1.01 ^ 365) leads to a 38x improvement.

Some people don’t know this, others do know it but they give up too early. They either don’t believe that their simple daily disciplines are working, or as soon as they start seeing results they stop making effort; they try to coast on momentum.

But there’s no such thing as standing still. If you’re not moving up, you’re moving down. So as that momentum runs out they start spiralling back towards failure.

At some point, it becomes clear that their upward momentum has run out and they’re travelling back in the opposite direction. At that point they start putting in effort again. They catch themselves, turn themselves painfully around and repeat the whole process.

The Slight Edge is important because it helps you break out of this cycle; it’s the secret to achieving breakthrough success (and avoiding massive failure).

And the best part of this process is that the positive changes you make won’t just benefit you. They’ll ripple out into the world around you (also known as, “The Ripple Effect”).

The Slight Edge benefits everyone.


The Slight Edge Chart

Before The Slight Edge: When you stop showing up after initial results you oscillate between survival and failure.

The Slight Edge Chart 2

After The Slight Edge: When you keep showing up even after initial results you break through to new levels of success.

The Slight Edge Chart 3


How Can I Master The Slight Edge?

To master The Slight Edge…

First – Take stock. Ask: “Am I heading upward or down in each of my…

  • Health;
  • Happiness;
  • Relationships;
  • Personal development;
  • Finances;
  • Career; and
  • Positive impact on the world.

Second – Create your own Slight Edge Worksheet. For each area:

  1. Write down what you want (be specific about exactly what it looks like and when you want to accomplish it) – Create a strong desire for and vision of success. Wanting is uncomfortable but it’s essential to winning.
  2. Put down a simple plan to get there – Don’t overthink it. Don’t make it perfect. Just use the plan to get started. Expect the plan to change and improve as you go.
  3. Decide on one simple daily discipline – Write one small simple discipline that, if you did it consistently, would improve this area by 1% every day.
  4. Look at your worksheet every day – Remind yourself constantly of what you want and how you’re planning to get there.

Third – Build The 7 Slight Edge Habits:

  1. Show up – Start small. Get started. Show up every day.
  2. Be consistent – Create momentum. Correct your trajectory. Outlast the competition.
  3. Have a positive outlook – Be grateful. Focus on opportunities, not problems.
  4. Be committed for the long haul – Remember the 10,000 hour rule.
  5. Cultivate a burning desire backed by faith – Clarify and visualise what you want.
  6. Be willing to pay the price – Very few worthwhile things are achieved easily.
  7. Practice slight edge integrity – Keep taking action even when nobody’s watching.

Fourth – Hang out with winners:

  • Surround yourself with mentors and role models you want to emulate;
  • Associate with people who inspire you to be great (dissociate from the rest); and
  • Form a mastermind of 2+ people you can pursue self-improvement with.

And finally – Use The 4 Slight Edge allies:

  1. Build momentum – Slow and steady builds momentum. Momentum wins the race;
  2. Close open loops – Close out all the incomplete projects and tasks on your plate;
  3. Reflect regularly – Make time to regularly review what happened, what went well and what could be improved at the end of each day, week, project; and
  4. Celebrate often – Celebrate each successful decision.

Examples Of Slight Edge Habits:

Shawn Achor’s five happy habits from The Happiness Advantage:

  • Write down three things you’re grateful for;
  • Journal about a positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours;
  • Meditate;
  • Perform a random act of kindness; and
  • Exercise for 15 minutes.

Other simple disciplines for happiness:

  • Make time for friends and relationships;
  • Practice savouring the moment;
  • Practice having a positive perspective;
  • Practice forgiveness;
  • Engage in meaningful activities; and
  • Practice simple acts of giving.

Simple disciplines for personal development:

  • Read at least 10 pages of a good book every day;
  • Listen to 15 minutes of life-transforming audio; and
  • Take a new course or seminar every couple of weeks.

Note: For more examples, check out TAoL‘s ultimate guide to habit tracking.


Books Like The Slight Edge

If you enjoyed The Slight Edge and want more of the same from slightly different perspectives, check out:

Jeff also provides his own recommended reading list at the end of the book…


The Slight Edge Book Recommendations

This list of life transforming book recommendations comes direct from the last chapter of The Slight Edge. I’ve ordered them by what’s most read (Goodreads review count), what’s most loved (Goodreads review score) and what’s survived the longest (publication date).

For even more reading, check out all TAoL’s book recommendations including:

For now, though, here’s Jeff’s list:

  1. As a Man Thinketh (1902), James Allen
    80 pages. Rated 4.3 over 53,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  2. The Richest Man in Babylon (1926), George S. Clason (Summary)
    THE classic parable on how to acquire money, how to not lose money and how to make money multiply – by serial entrepreneur and author, George S. Clason.
    194 pages. Rated 4.3 over 93,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  3. How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), Dale Carnegie (Summary)
    The classic guide to greatly improving effectiveness and efficiency by mastering the ability to work with and through the people around you – by self-improvement guru, Dale Carnegie.
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 532,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  4. Think and Grow Rich (1937), Napoleon Hill (Summary)
    A best-selling book of all time and a cornerstone guide to the Law of Attraction and the role of the subconscious in transforming your life – by a titan of the self-help genre, Napoleon Hill.
    233 pages. Rated 4.2 over 187,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  5. The Magic of Thinking Big (1959), David J. Schwartz (Summary)
    A powerful, practical and uplifting book to help get you out of a rut, invigorate your goals and empower you towards success – by life-long motivational writer and coach, David J. Schwartz.
    320 pages. Rated 4.2 over 63,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. The Science of Getting Rich (1910), Wallace D. Wattles
    146 pages. Rated 4.2 over 29,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  7. Acres of Diamonds (1892), Russell H. Conwell
    68 pages. Rated 4.2 over 7,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  8. The Greatest Salesman in the World (1968), Og Mandino
    128 pages. Rated 4.2 over 50,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  9. The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), Norman Vincent Peale
    128 pages. Rated 4.1 over 76,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), Stephen R. Covey (Summary)
    Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    A perennial masterpiece on leading a happy, productive and purposeful existence and an unmissable stop for any pilgrim of personal improvement – by educator, author and speaker, Stephen Covey.
    372 pages. Rated 4.1 over 473,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  11. The Art of Exceptional Living (1985), Jim Rohn
    Rated 4.3 over 2,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  12. 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness (1996), Jim Rohn
    Power Ideas from America’s Foremost Business Philosopher
    176 pages. Rated 4.5 over 1,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  13. The Go-Giver (2007), Bob Burg
    A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
    133 pages. Rated 4.4 over 14,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  14. The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle (1991), Jim Rohn
    A Guide to Personal Success
    121 pages. Rated 4.4 over 1,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  15. The Seasons of Life (1981), Jim Rohn
    115 pages. Rated 4.4 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  16. Failing Forward (2000), John C. Maxwell
    Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success
    209 pages. Rated 4.3 over 7,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  17. The Millionaire Next Door (1995), Thomas J. Stanley
    The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy
    258 pages. Rated 4.0 over 60,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  18. Cultivating an Unshakeable Character 6CDs [Audio CD] (1996), Jim Rohn
    Rated 4.3 over 400 reviews on Goodreads.
  19. The Challenge to Succeed (2007), Jim Rohn
    Rated 4.6 over 100 reviews on Goodreads.
  20. The Power of Habit (2012), Charles Duhigg (Summary)
    Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
    A page-turning dive into the power and ubiquity of unconscious habits in shaping our decisions and destinies (plus a practical guide to changing them) – by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Charles Duhigg.
    375 pages. Rated 4.1 over 282,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  21. Multiple Streams of Income (1998), Robert G. Allen
    How to Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth
    336 pages. Rated 4.0 over 4,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  22. The Happiness Advantage (2010), Shawn Achor
    The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
    272 pages. Rated 4.2 over 18,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  23. Authentic Happiness (2002), Martin E.P. Seligman
    Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
    336 pages. Rated 4.0 over 8,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  24. Go-Givers Sell More (2010), Bob Burg
    208 pages. Rated 4.3 over 2,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  25. The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires (2000), Brian Tracy
    How to Achieve Financial Independence Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible
    91 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  26. Drive (2009), Daniel H. Pink
    The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
    242 pages. Rated 3.9 over 76,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  27. The Automatic Millionaire (2003), David Bach
    A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich
    272 pages. Rated 3.9 over 13,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  28. The Go-Giver Leader (2011), Bob Burg
    A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business
    176 pages. Rated 4.4 over 600 reviews on Goodreads.
  29. The Aladdin Factor (1995), Jack Canfield
    How to Ask for What You Want–And Get It
    304 pages. Rated 4.0 over 1,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  30. The Happiness Project (2009), Gretchen Rubin
    Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
    301 pages. Rated 3.6 over 137,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  31. The Dip (2007), Seth Godin
    A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit
    80 pages. Rated 3.8 over 24,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  32. The How of Happiness (2007), Sonja Lyubomirsky
    A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
    384 pages. Rated 4.0 over 6,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  33. Conversations with Millionaires (2001), Mike Litman
    What Millionaires Do to Get Rich, That You Never Learned about in School!
    240 pages. Rated 4.1 over 200 reviews on Goodreads.
  34. Success For Teens (2008), John Fleming
    Real Teens Talk About Using The Slight Edge
    147 pages. Rated 4.2 over 200 reviews on Goodreads.
  35. The Thank You Economy (2010), Gary Vaynerchuk
    256 pages. Rated 3.9 over 11,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  36. Positivity (2009), Barbara L. Fredrickson
    Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive
    288 pages. Rated 4.0 over 1,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  37. Before Happiness (2013), Shawn Achor
    How Creating a Positive Reality First Amplifies Your Levels of Happiness and Success
    256 pages. Rated 4.0 over 2,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  38. Little Things Matter (2010), Todd Smith
    276 pages. Rated 4.2 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  39. Flourish (2011), Martin E.P. Seligman
    A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
    349 pages. Rated 3.9 over 4,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  40. Start Over, Finish Rich (2009), David Bach
    10 Steps to Get You Back on Track in 2010
    224 pages. Rated 3.7 over 300 reviews on Goodreads.
  41. The Myths of Happiness (2012), Sonja Lyubomirsky
    320 pages. Rated 3.7 over 1,500 reviews on Goodreads.

The Slight Edge Quotes

These Slight Edge quotes come from TANQThe Art of Living‘s growing central library of thoughts, anecdotes, notes, and inspirational quotes.

The same activities that take us from failure to survival would also take us from survival to success – if we would just keep doing them. You already know how to do everything it would take to make you an outrageous success. All you have to do is keep doing the things that have gotten you this far. You have complete control over the direction that the rest of your life takes. There is a beach bum and a millionaire inside each one of us. What makes the difference in how things turn out? You do.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

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

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

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

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

The simple things that lead to success are all easy to do. But they’re also just as easy not to do.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

You need to base your choices on your philosophy – on what you know, not what you see.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

Difficult takes a little time; impossible takes just a little longer.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

It’s never too late to start. It’s always too late to wait.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

The secret of time is simply this: time is the force that magnifies those little, almost imperceptible, seemingly insignificant things you do every day into something titanic and unstoppable.

— Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge
Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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