WSIR 007 | The Slight Edge

How many of you honestly believe that in the next twenty four hours you could do something that would have a drastically negative effect on your life?

How many of you honestly believe that in the next twenty four hours you could do something that would have an immensely positive effect on your life?

Likely you believe that each of these things are possible but that these two paths of action are quite different.


What if they were nearly identical?

In this week’s video I quote from page 41 Jeff Olson’s book, The Slight Edge, 

“The difference between success and failure is not dramatic. In fact, the difference between success and failure is so subtle, most people miss it.”

The Slight Edge presents a philosophy of our actions, one that affects the choices that you and I make over the course of our lives.

This philosophy is based on the principle of compounding, the idea that one thing builds upon another and adds up over time to a logical conclusion.

Before we get into the body of this post, a story.

I hate weeding.

weed photo

I should probably frame my experiences differently in my mind but at this point in my journey of life I haven’t achieved that yet. I grew up on a farm and while the sheep were fluffy and the fruit tasted good, I could not stand being dirty, sweaty, and bending over for hours on end to pull tiny sprouts out of the dirt. One summer sticks in my mind because we had a new 4 acre field of strawberries and they all needed to be weeded. For those of you who don’t know what 4 acres look like, imagine a field that you have a hard time hearing someone on the other side who is yelling and you’re pretty close.

So myself and the other workers that summer were busy in the field from roughly 8am til 12pm 6 days a week and then we got to work on less offensive projects. During that year the worst weed was Nut Grass. I also hate Nut Grass. My description of this plant wont be written on this blog because children could read it. Anyway, as we weeded I can remember doing enough to make the field look great, but it wasn’t 100% clear. Generally there were a few small weeds left, or roots not fully unearthed and those would spring back like, well, weeds. Several weeks later, by the time we had made our way across the yell-distance field, those first small weeds had grown back and multiplied and we had to start over.

My point with this story is that had we put in that last 5-10% effort to demolish the weeds, we wouldn’t have had to weed the field multiple times. That final 5% was the difference between a summer filled with 4 hour spinal stress sessions and one that still included weeding, but only half as much.


That is the Slight Edge.

A cursory search of “Compound interest retirement saving” got me Business Insider article. Check it out if you want a reminder to be consistent in the things that you do, or if you like graphs and charts.

The slight edge not only applies to finances but to areas as diverse as health, relationships, skill sets, and thought patterns. It can be summed up in the following image, thanks to for hosting the image online and demonstrating that it also applies to wrestling!

Your daily actions matter.

They do.

So what does this mean for our original idea that our actions tomorrow on the success path or our actions tomorrow on the failure path look quite similar?

Simply put, the right actions to take are easy to do, but they are also easy not to do.

Brushing your teeth. Easy.

Buckling your seatbelt. Easy.

Writing down 3 things you’re thankful for each day. Easy.

Pulling 38 more weeds in the midst of 3200. Easy

Listening to an audiobook instead of the radio. Easy.

However each of these things are also easy not to do. 

Would you agree with me that NOT writing down three things you’re thankful for would be unlikely to mean that you are a grouch and constantly complaining tomorrow?

Would you agree that NOT buckling your seat belt on your commute on Monday would be unlikely to end in a fiery car crash?

In my opinion, one of the main ideas of the book is that our habits generally rule the actions that tie directly into the slight edge.

Your habits are what will propel you up the success curve or down the failure curve.

–J. Paul Getty

If we can structure our habits so that they feed our positive progress up the slight edge, we can use the momentum we build over time to ride our way to goals that may seem incredible at this time.

This post is not designed to be the exhaustive resource on habits, if you would like more information on the power of habits, making them stick, and a book recommendation on the subject, here are three resources:

However, I would like to encourage you to start as soon as you can to build the habits that you need to propel you towards the goal you have. Think of it in this way, could you move in that direction by 0.3% tomorrow? That’s only one third of one percent!

If you usually run 1 mile, you would run 1 mile and 15 feet.

This is a ridiculously small improvement, right?

Consider this though, if you are able to consistently improve at this rate, one year from now you will be well over 100% better!

This old Chinese proverb is worth pondering.

Be not afraid of going slowly;

be afraid only of standing still


So what easy thing are you going to do today?

Have you watched this week’s video?

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Learning to be Heroes

You can define a society by the heroes it keeps. You can also define a person by the heroes he or she keeps. Who are your heroes? Who are you modeling yourself after?  -Jeff Olson The Slight Edge

As individuals strive to be what we are created to be there are different avenues to pursue. Specifically there are three pathways of learning: #1 Learning by study, #2 Learning by Doing and #3 Learning from a Mentor.

#1 Learning by Study (Book Smarts).

This is the kind of learning that we commonly think of. Books, CD’s, Seminars, all things that I am passionate about because of the power of learning that they have! As we invest our time listening to a positive audio, perhaps even while doing something else, our brain can process that learning. Also, like we talked about in a previous post, the small actions add up to big results. This principle works in all areas, Reading 10 pages a day and listening to 15-30 minutes of audio for information is a simple thing to do. It’s unfortunately easy not to do as well. But the results are tremendous over time! 10 pages a day turns into a book a Month. 1 hour of audio a day on a certain subject after a year means you are in the top 5% of the world educated on that subject. Simply because there is no better way to take in information than our eyes and ears, this method of Learning has been championed. Seminars bring in, hopefully, the third type of learning so we will move on to pathway #2.

#2 Learning by Doing (Street Smarts).

If you’ve ever started a new job you understand this process. Our minds function in such a way that after a time of learning by study, we have a pressure to apply what we learned. Try listening to an audio of a leader talking about the benefits of a good attitude and then you’ll be able to, as Cassie Birtles says “Catch a grump off guard with kindness.” This is a FUN way of learning too! It feels good to put into practice the values that one has in their heart. There comes a time when book learning reaches a tip-over point and that knowledge has to be put into practice.

As a valuable aside here, putting a new discipline or concept into practice means that you will fail. Yes. I said it, you will fail. And this is good! the opposite of success is not failure, the opposite of success is quitting. Failure offers an invaluable opportunity for learning.

If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.  -Thomas J. Watson

If you still don’t believe me on this one, think on this quote by Wayne Gretzky:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

At my current job in a restaurant, we mention certain promotions to each customer. I’ve found that only be doubling my failure rate (by talking to more customers) can I get a higher rate of results.

#3 Learning from a Mentor

There is a lot I could say about learning from a mentor, but Jeff Olson goes into this topic pretty heavily in The Slight Edge and is very concise.

Take a look at who your heroes are- write down a list and examine it. Ask yourself, “Can I become like them? Are these people doing the 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? pg 151 in The Slight Edge

You are who you associate with most. Be very aware of the philosophy, values, income, and accomplishments of those that you hang out with the most.

You can read more about The Friends Effect on

Success has a lot to do with the learning that takes place before the action actually happens.

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

The Three types of Learning are all necessary to become what you aspire to accomplish. Book smarts and Street smarts are great, but they are catalyzed and accelerated by finding mentors and friends that spur you on.

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First Steps: a Story of a Life Saved.

If you have ever wondered whether or not the everyday things you do actually matter, they do.

ripple effect

Jeff Olson expands on this statement in his seminal book, the Slight Edge. If you’re facing a big problem, or a long journey to a destination read this book. Just do it.

In chapter 7 Jeff writes,

You are constantly creating a ripple effect by the way you affect your environment. It can be a positive ripple or a negative ripple. The choice is always yours.

The truth is, we don’t always know what the long-term effects of our actions are. But your thinking is what creates your habits and they make the difference. Those daily habits are The Slight Edge! Small actions, compounded over time with the right attitude are what creates your life!

So what does that look like? slight edge

The Slight Edge is the set of daily decisions that do not seem to make a big difference. The two paths are imperceptible from each other for most of the journey but turn sharply to the positive or negative near the end. Everyone is either on the upward path or the downward path. If you’re not actively choosing the positive, you are on the negative path. The good news is that anyone, at any time, can choose to switch paths. This doesn’t change situation or make things immediately different, but a consistent approach will produce results!

Remember when you learned to walk. Ok, imagine what it was like when you were learning to walk.

Grab the table leg.

Raise yourself up.

Reach out for the wall, a foot away.

Tentatively take a step, and – Crash! 

Onto the floor.

Crawl to the couch.

Hoist your little body up again.

Take a small step towards the coffee table.

It worked!


Maybe not.


But the story doesn’t end there. If not immediately again, maybe later that day, you got up, tried again, and… fell down again. Yet you tried again. And again. Until, finally, you were walking.

The Slight Edge means that you keep making the right decision, regardless of success until you see the result. When you decided to walk, you had it. It was just a matter of time until your walking skills caught up to your mind!

Sometimes that principle of small actions to big results is the difference between life and death.

I had the chance yesterday (Wednesday, March 12) to take an hour and pray with a group of others from my Church next door to an abortion clinic in our city. Talking with the sidewalk counselor we learned of a joyous story. A story of life. 

That day, this is yesterday mind you, a young woman came to the clinic with her mother. Their intent was to “take care of a problem.” We don’t know their background, and it doesn’t matter. What we do know is that two paths intersected. This young woman was on the downside of the slight edge. And today she faced the point where the paths diverged dramatically. Sherri, the sidewalk counselor was also on the slight edge. She, uplifted by the prayers of many intercessors, comes week after week to stand near the abortion clinic and offer hope to the young mothers going into the clinic. Sherri reached out to this young lady yesterday. Somehow, (I know it was the Holy Spirit) what she said made sense to this young woman enough to take the information and stop to talk. As they spoke, the young mother began to realize the drastic implications of the slight edge path she was on. And by the grace of God, she chose to not go through with the abortion! She chose right then to step off the downward path and back onto the upward path. It can happen at anytime. Thankfully, this mom chose to switch paths right before the path banked sharply. But again, it is never too late to choose the right path.

Our prayer time was joyous when we heard that this child was saved. We don’t know what kind of person they will grow up to be. But we do know this is true about them:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

-Psalm 139:13-14

That child is created by God to create their own ripples. They’ll have an effect, and it will be dictated by the daily choices that they make. That child could be an entrepreneur, a pastor, a teacher, a CEO, an inventor. We don’t know, but we do know that when that mother chose life, she got on the right path.

What path are you on?

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