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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.
10 MINUTE READ
The Slight Edge (2005)
Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness
TAoL Rating: Book Rating: 5/5 5.0

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One-Sentence Summary

The Slight Edge is 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. (168 pages)

Note: This The Slight Edge summary is part of an ongoing project to summarise the Best Productivity Books and Best Self Help Books of all time.

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.

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:

The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: How to Win Friends and Influence People
1. How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie (FREE Summary)
How to Win Friends and Influence People is 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.
Published 1936 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 767,200 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: The Richest Man in Babylon
2. The Richest Man in Babylon – George S. Clason (FREE Summary)
The Richest Man in Babylon is 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.
Published 1926 // 194 pages // Rated 4.3 over 145,500 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: As a Man Thinketh
3. As a Man ThinkethJames Allen (FREE Summary)
As a Man Thinketh is THE #1 ranking, uplifting, pocket-sized pep-talk on the power and importance of changing your thoughts as the cornerstone to changing your life – by philosopher and prolific self-help author, James Allen.
Published 1902 // 34 pages // Rated 4.3 over 69,900 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: Think and Grow Rich
4. Think and Grow RichNapoleon Hill (FREE Summary)
Think and Grow Rich is 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.
Published 1937 // 233 pages // Rated 4.2 over 268,100 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: The Magic of Thinking Big
5. The Magic of Thinking BigDavid J. Schwartz (FREE Summary)
The Magic of Thinking Big is 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.
Published 1959 // 320 pages // Rated 4.2 over 80,300 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: The Greatest Salesman in the World
6. The Greatest Salesman in the World – Og Mandino
Published 1968 // 128 pages // Rated 4.2 over 58,800 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen R. Covey (FREE Summary)
Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is 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.
Published 1989 // 372 pages // Rated 4.1 over 624,500 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: The Power of Positive Thinking
8. The Power of Positive ThinkingNorman Vincent Peale (FREE Summary)
The Power of Positive Thinking reminds us that we don’t need a PhD in Human Relations to live our best lives if we can learn a few tricks to change how we think – by minister and best-selling author Norman Vincent Peale.
Published 1952 // 128 pages // Rated 4.2 over 96,800 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: Acres of Diamonds
9. Acres of DiamondsRussell H. Conwell (FREE Summary)
Acres of Diamonds is a short, inspirational reminder that all you need for success, wealth and happiness can be found right in front of you and that the grass is always green where you water it – by minister, orator and founder of Temple University, Russell H. Conwell.
Published 1892 // 68 pages // Rated 4.2 over 8,500 reviews on Goodreads
The Slight Edge Book Recommendations: The Science of Getting Rich
10. The Science of Getting RichWallace D. Wattles (FREE Summary)
The Science of Getting Rich offers a short, pragmatic guide to attracting wealth and success by reprogramming your thinking, ovecoming mental barriers and learning to create, rather than compete – by New Thought and self-help author, Wallace D. Wattles.
Published 1910 // 146 pages // Rated 4.1 over 37,000 reviews on Goodreads
11. The Art of Exceptional Living – Jim Rohn
The Art of Exceptional Living is an inspirational reminder of the power of continuous self-improvement and doing the best that you can in every situation – by entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn.
Published 1985 // n/a pages // Rated 4.3 over 2,800 reviews on Goodreads
12. 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness – Jim Rohn
Power Ideas from America’s Foremost Business Philosopher
Published 1996 // 176 pages // Rated 4.5 over 2,500 reviews on Goodreads
13. The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle – Jim Rohn
A Guide to Personal Success
Published 1991 // 121 pages // Rated 4.5 over 1,400 reviews on Goodreads
14. The Seasons of Life – Jim Rohn
Published 1981 // 115 pages // Rated 4.3 over 1,200 reviews on Goodreads
15. The Go-Giver – Bob Burg
A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
Published 2007 // 133 pages // Rated 4.3 over 19,200 reviews on Goodreads
16. The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley
The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy
Published 1995 // 258 pages // Rated 4.0 over 92,600 reviews on Goodreads
17. Failing Forward – John C. Maxwell
Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success
Published 2000 // 209 pages // Rated 4.1 over 11,100 reviews on Goodreads
18. Cultivating an Unshakeable Character 6CDs [Audio CD] – Jim Rohn
Published 1996 // pages // Rated 4.4 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
19. The Power of HabitCharles Duhigg (FREE Summary)
Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
The Power of Habit is 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.
Published 2012 // 375 pages // Rated 4.1 over 417,700 reviews on Goodreads
20. The Challenge to Succeed – Jim Rohn
Published 2007 // pages // Rated 4.6 over 100 reviews on Goodreads
21. Multiple Streams of Income – Robert G. Allen
How to Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth
Published 1998 // 336 pages // Rated 4.0 over 5,200 reviews on Goodreads
22. Go-Givers Sell More – Bob Burg
Published 2010 // 208 pages // Rated 4.3 over 2,600 reviews on Goodreads
23. Drive – Daniel H. Pink
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Published 2009 // 242 pages // Rated 3.9 over 108,600 reviews on Goodreads
24. The Automatic Millionaire – David Bach
A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich
Published 2003 // 272 pages // Rated 3.9 over 16,900 reviews on Goodreads
25. The Happiness AdvantageShawn Achor
The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
Published 2010 // 272 pages // Rated 4.1 over 31,900 reviews on Goodreads
26. Authentic HappinessMartin E.P. Seligman
Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
Published 2002 // 336 pages // Rated 3.9 over 11,600 reviews on Goodreads
27. The Go-Giver Leader – Bob Burg
A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business
Published 2011 // 176 pages // Rated 4.4 over 800 reviews on Goodreads
28. The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made MillionairesBrian Tracy
How to Achieve Financial Independence Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible
Published 2000 // 91 pages // Rated 4.0 over 2,400 reviews on Goodreads
29. The Aladdin Factor – Jack Canfield
How to Ask for What You Want–And Get It
Published 1995 // 304 pages // Rated 4.0 over 1,200 reviews on Goodreads
30. The Happiness Project – 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
Published 2009 // 301 pages // Rated 3.6 over 161,100 reviews on Goodreads
31. The Dip – Seth Godin
A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit
Published 2007 // 80 pages // Rated 3.8 over 31,600 reviews on Goodreads
32. The How of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky
A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
Published 2007 // 384 pages // Rated 3.9 over 9,400 reviews on Goodreads
33. Conversations with Millionaires – Mike Litman
What Millionaires Do to Get Rich, That You Never Learned about in School!
Published 2001 // 240 pages // Rated 4.1 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
34. Success For Teens – John Fleming
Real Teens Talk About Using The Slight Edge
Published 2008 // 147 pages // Rated 4.1 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
35. Before HappinessShawn Achor
How Creating a Positive Reality First Amplifies Your Levels of Happiness and Success
Published 2013 // 256 pages // Rated 4.0 over 2,800 reviews on Goodreads
36. Positivity – Barbara L. Fredrickson
Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive
Published 2009 // 288 pages // Rated 4.0 over 2,400 reviews on Goodreads
37. The Thank You Economy – Gary Vaynerchuk
Published 2010 // 256 pages // Rated 3.8 over 12,900 reviews on Goodreads
38. Little Things Matter – Todd Smith
Published 2010 // 276 pages // Rated 4.2 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
39. Start Over, Finish Rich – David Bach
10 Steps to Get You Back on Track in 2010
Published 2009 // 224 pages // Rated 3.7 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
40. The Myths of Happiness – Sonja Lyubomirsky
Published 2012 // 320 pages // Rated 3.7 over 1,700 reviews on Goodreads

The Slight Edge Contents

The Slight Edge has 18 main chapters in 2 parts…

Part I: How the Slight Edge Works

  1. The Beach Bum and the Millionaire
  2. The First Ingredient
  3. The Choice
  4. Master the Mundane
  5. Slow Down to Go Fast
  6. Don’t Fall for Quantum Leap
  7. The Secret of Happiness
  8. The Ripple Effect
  9. But You Have to Start with a Penny

Part II: Living the Slight Edge

  1. Two Life Paths
  2. Mastering the Slight Edge
  3. Invest in Yourself
  4. Learn from Mentors
  5. Use Your Slight Edge Allies
  6. Cultivate Slight Edge Habits
  7. Three Steps to Your Dreams
  8. Living the Slight Edge
  9. Where to Go from Here

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Read More: 5 Books Like The Slight Edge

Enjoyed this The Slight Edge summary? You might enjoy the rest of the books on these lists of the Best Productivity Books and Best Self Help Books of all time.

And in the meantime...

Here are 5 top books like The Slight Edge...

Books Like The Slight Edge: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey (FREE Summary)
Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is 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.
Published 1989 // 372 pages // Rated 4.1 over 624,500 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like The Slight Edge: First Things First
2. First Things First - Stephen R. Covey (FREE Summary)
First Things First is an action-oriented time-management manual, filled with frameworks and exercises to help you do more of what matters and less of what doesn't - by the author of the #1 book on this list, Stephen Covey.
Published 1993 // 384 pages // Rated 4.1 over 40,400 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like The Slight Edge: Goals!
3. Goals! - Brian Tracy (FREE Summary)
How to Get Everything You Want Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible
Goals! was the first book I ever read on productivity and probably the most readable and complete guide to goal-setting ever written - by sales legend and time-management master, Brian Tracy.
Published 1989 // 291 pages // Rated 4.2 over 14,200 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like The Slight Edge: The Effective Executive
4. The Effective Executive - Peter F. Drucker (FREE Summary)
The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done
The Effective Executive is THE timeless classic on leadership and management; on getting the right things done - by the dean of business and management philosophy, Peter F. Drucker.
Published 1966 // 208 pages // Rated 4.1 over 32,700 reviews on Goodreads
Books Like The Slight Edge: The Compound Effect
5. The Compound Effect - Darren Hardy (FREE Summary)
Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success
The Compound Effect offers a concise, practical guide to mastering small choices that determine big outcomes which dictate the course of your life - by best selling author, publisher and motivational speaker, Darren Hardy.
Published 2010 // 162 pages // Rated 4.2 over 39,400 reviews on Goodreads

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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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