THE SLIGHT EDGE
Do the thing, and you shall have the power. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my friends Johnny DuRocher. He is the Director of Rise Football, which is a football development program for youth, middle school, and high school student-athletes. Johnny and I love to talk about culture and leadership. In his quest for knowledge, Johnny was so pumped to share with me that he had a meeting with the University of Washington Head Football Coach, Chris Peterson. He was able to pick the brain of one of the winningest active football coaches in the nation...I was a little jealous.
Like Johnny, I have a deep respect for what Coach Peterson stands for: his integrity, the way he treats people, his longevity of success, and I mostly admire his leadership style. This is controversial being a Coug lifer, but if I had to choose a leader to mentor my son Baylor, between Coach P or the Pirate (WSU Football Coach Mike Leach), I’d definitely lean toward Coach Peterson. While Coach Leach would be thrilled to discuss the patterns of cloud formations in the sky, Coach Peterson would be more apt to discuss offensive formations and the importance of having strong character.
During my conversation with Johnny, he gave me a cool insight on Coach Peterson’s leadership philosophy. He said that Peterson uses the book The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success & Happiness, by Jeff Olson as a core foundation of his program. This sparked my interest. I have heard of this book before. I’d listened to its summary in my app Blinkist and loved the idea of small daily disciplines compounding over time. Simple enough concept, but I felt like I didn’t need to read the whole book. Johnny’s insight on Coach Peterson changed my tune.
With Johnny’s and Coach Peterson’s recommendation, I downloaded it before my trip to Greece (which is where I’m at right now! The water, the history, and the sun are amazing by the way). On our 15 hours on an airplane, I devoured this personal development classic. Originally written in 2005, and updated in 2013, below is a summary of the key points that resenated with me.
Time is Your Ally
The central theme of The Slight Edge is doing simple basic tasks consistently over time. If you do, you'll generate a compounding effect of growth and improvement. This improvement is often not seen early, but by sticking with it and having patience, you’ll eventually see a return.
Whether it’s reading 10 pages of a personal development book each day, simply doing 15 minutes of cardio each morning, or saving $250 a month, the power of the Slight Edge is sticking to it for the long haul.
Olson talks about getting 1% better every day and uses the example of doubling a penny—which doesn’t seem like much. But, did you know that if you double a penny, by week 3 you will have over $21,000? By 30 days, over $5 million. By 31 days, an entire month, over $10 million. For example, you might not see a big improvement in your weight or appearance after going to the gym for two weeks, but if you stick with it for a month, two months, six months, that’s the secret sauce that makes a successful entrepreneur, athlete, or leader...staying with it and committing to the process over long periods of time.
Do you have the patience to stick with it? What’s one thing you’ve quit (or maybe haven’t even started), because you expected a drastic change overnight?
There’s No Magic Pill
Basically, it all comes down to choice. Olson writes, “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.” Success comes down to putting in the work...simple as that. Olson suggests that only 5% of people are disciplined enough to avoid the seduction of instant gratification and the path of least resistance. He says, “It’s just as easy to make a good decision, as it is a bad decision.” Do I eat the cheeseburger or the chicken salad? Do I drink water or Coke? Do I get up early, or hit the snooze button? Once you are able to make The Slight Edge decision enough times, doing the right thing becomes easy, because you’ll form a new rewarding habit.
Master the Mundane
Greatness is often found behind the scenes. Doing unsexy things like saving not spending; helping others instead of self promoting; journaling instead of browsing on social media. The secret to The Slight Edge is identifying what your critical actions are and sticking with it. These actions will not create Tweetable moments or fanfare, but are critical to advancing toward your goals.
What are one or two simple actions you can start doing today consistently to help you be the best version of you?
Create a Personal Philosophy
According to Olson, the driving force for sticking with your commitments is having a purpose and vision behind your actions. Olson quotes the Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill:
“There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”
By having a personal philosophy, which can be as short as Nike’s “Just do it,” you’ll create the mindset that shapes your attitude, guides your behavior, and pushes you when you feel like taking the easy way.
Can you come up with a slogan or personal philosophy of your own?
Do yourself a favor and read The Slight Edge. This simple concept and lifestyle choice works for high achievers like Coach Peterson, and has the power to help you make a few simple changes that can have a lasting affect in your life if you stick with them.
...Then again, successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.
Collin Henderson is an author, speaker, and high performance coach. Pre-order his new book Master Your Mindset now!