When a friend hands you a book and says, "You have to read this, but return it when you're done." You know you're in for a treat. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson lived up to that promise.
The punchline of the book is right in the sub-title: Turning simple disciplines into massive success. Like I talked about during the Furlo Bros Tech Podcast a few months back, the idea is to take small, simple actions every day towards a goal. Those actions compound over time to create extra ordinary results.
For example, you might decide you actually want to be able to do a crazy amount of push-ups. You decide to start with 1, but every day add another 1. If you do your push-ups every day, you'll slowly build the required muscles to do 365 push-ups by the end of the year. Of course, it's just as easy NOT to do the push-ups. At first, you won't even notice, maybe not even for the first couple months, but slowly you'll start to notice the impact of your decision.
Another classic example is saving for retirement. Just save $5 a day and 40 years later you'll retire a millionaire. It's easy as a young adult to put off saving for retirement. It's only $5! You won't notice this simple error in judgement at first. Most don't notice it until they're 40 or even 50! By then, that simple error has compounded into a big problem. On the positive side of the curve, that effortless decision means you'll be able to retire and enjoy life.
The concept is simple, and probably something you already intuitively know. Olson spends the 200 pages in the book giving examples of it in action (highly motivating!) and diving deeper in the details of how it works. By the time you finish, you'll be able to articulate the concept and act upon it. Check out the image above for a visual representation of it.
My Personal Application
At the end of the book, Olson gives areas to focus on. It starts out with regular goal setting, but then ties them to specific simple actions you take every day. Here are mine since it's also good to write them down and share them.
- Goal: After I hurt my finger, I stopped being as active and put on an extra 10 pounds. I'd like to lose it. At the same time, I allowed my portions to get out of control. The holiday season is a bad time to lose focus!
- Action: Go to sleep every night slightly hungry. Eventually it will morph to something else, but for now this is an easy gauge at the end of the day.
- Action: Floss. Every. Single. Day. This will improve my oral health and is an area I slacked off on.
- Goal: I enjoy listening to audiobooks, but listening to technical/self-imporvement books is hard to do while just listening because I can't easily take notes and refer back to the material. So, I've been shying away from listening to them. As much fun as it was to say I don't read anymore, I need to get back to reading. Perhaps I can say something about digital vs. paper reading. :)
- Action: Read, with my eyes, just a little bit of a technical/self-improvement book each day. Olson suggests 10 pages a day. I'm not there yet, but perhaps I will as my actions compound.
- Goal: I'm leaning on my annual goal for this one. I want to read the whole Bible, which will reveal more of God's will to me and thus improve our relationship.
- Action: Read 1-4 chapters of my Bible each day. I'm still on track to finish sometime next year.
- Goal: The BIG goal is to become financially independent. That way Jessi and I can work on what we want, when we want. This involves two parts: money in and money out.
- Action: Find one way to save money each day. It might be turning the heater off for a couple hours during the day (last month was our lowest electricity bill so far!). Decisions NOT to buy something also count. For example, the power cord on my external drive needs to be replaced. I did a quick search and didn't find a US replacement. So I started looking into a replacement drive. Jessi pressured me to look harder for a power cord replacement. After 30 minutes of looking, I found a US version. I spent $20 instead of $80. I say it counts.
- Action: Work on my side business a little bit every day. Progress is being made slowly, but at least it's being made. By the way, as my friend pointed out, this is a great companion book to The Go-Giver.
- Goal: This one is a little more nebulous. So my actions are more general.
- Action: Meditate each day. This consists of sitting quietly for ~10 minutes and focusing on a couple things: the greatness of God, nothing, or sometimes just letting my mind wonder. People say good things happens to those who take time to mediate.
- Action: Wake up by 6:30am every day. I'm a morning person, so the earlier I wake up, the better I feel and the more productive I am (plus, I tend to accomplish all my other daily actions). The problem, is that Jessi is a night person and I like hanging out with her. One of the perks of working from home is that I can be flexible with when I wake up for the late nights. I need to instead focus on limiting the late nights.
Lift iPhone App
Lift is an app that provides a simple way to track your progress, and get the support of your friends. The picture shows what it looks like. You create a list of simple daily tasks you want to complete. As you do them, tap the check mark. Finished ones are green. Simple. I actually started using it before reading the book (because I'm cool like that) and the book really helped me focus and be more purposeful on the daily activities I choose.
They're coming out with a web version in a little bit if you don't have an iPhone.
One of the things I love about technology is that it helps us do those things we know we're supposed to do, but never do because it's too hard to get started. Apps like this (and Mint for tracking spending) reduce the barriers to action, which is awesome!
So... uh... yes! I HIGHLY recommend this book. If you're interested in slowly improving your life, this is a great book to show you how to do it. I like to call it a meta-self-help book because it really teaches you how to apply other self-help books. Check it out, you'll be glad you did.
PS. I wrote this post in 3 short writing sessions because I knew I didn't have the time to sit down and do it all at once. As a result, I actually finished it.
Images: blog.kw.com & brentmkelly.com & forbes.com