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.
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 attackstylewrestling.com for hosting the image online and demonstrating that it also applies to wrestling!
Your daily actions matter.
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:
- Brett McKay at ArtofManliness with a great article on the Habit Loop
- Seth Godin on Making Habits
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
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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