The Slight Edge
One of our favorite books is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which led us to re-evaluate our approach to seemingly “insignificant” decisions that are made on a daily basis. We particularly liked Olson’s framework because it takes a familiar concept to those of us in finance – the power of compounding – and applies it to all aspects of life.
Olson’s Slight Edge philosophy states that success is the “progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” He believes that with each decision a person makes, they are either taking themselves “up or down the success curve.” From the book:
“Everybody’s busy. Everybody does the actions. But were they the right actions? Were those actions productive? Did you take a step forward? These are questions most people never take the time to think about.
Did you eat well, or did you eat poorly? Who did you associate with today? Did they empower you? How? In what way? Did you listen to good information today, or just zone out to the music? Did you engage in positive conversation, or did you gossip and complain? What did you read that contributed to your success today? Did you do any of those things unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do? Whose dreams did you build today – yours or somebody else’s?”
Olson argues that 95% of people fail to achieve true success in life because they lack a grounding philosophy. As a result, most people choose to “not do the things that are easy to do” on a daily basis, such as getting a moderate amount of exercise, making smart nutrition choices, saving instead of consuming, returning a phone call, etc. Over time, failing to act on these seemingly insignificant choices leads people down the “failure curve,” which tends to compound negative attitudes such as blame, neglect, entitlement and anger.
Alternatively, Olson posits that the 5% of people who achieve true success are those that habitually do the things that are “just as easy to do as not to do.” While this disciplined approach does not have an instantaneous impact, over time, the value of taking care of the easy things in a habitual manner is emotionally, intellectually and financially powerful.
We believe in the compounding effects associated with making the right, but hard, decisions on a daily basis, and we understand that with each decision we make, we are either taking ourselves up the success curve, or down the failure curve. Taking advantage of slight edges allows us to reflect upon our own strengths and attack our weaknesses more effectively.