Review: The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson

IMG_1254This is my review of The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. I’ll be looking at it’s overall message, and picking out the points that were most relevant to me, in the hope that we can spark some discussion off of that.

In late 2015 my friend Robert Clay told the participants of the first Ampersand Club a story about a father who has two grownup children. He offers them both a choice: have a million dollars cash today (hey, he’s American), or have one penny, but the value of that sum will be doubled everyday.

As you can might guess, one child takes the million and it destroys him/her, whereas the other takes the one penny, and by day 30, they have become a millionaire many times over.

It turns out this story is from The Slight Edge, the book Robert recommended that evening that we go away and read. And I did go away and read it… 7 months later.

The Premise of The Slight Edge

In a nutshell, The Slight Edge is over a 250-page exhortation of the power of making small decisions that accumulate over time into a significant difference, just like the story above.

This is illustrated by the below illustration, that appears regularly throughout the book:

9806836da2fe9f0364c35a6ec6fd284b

Olson makes this practical with the following examples:

  • Going to the gym everyday doesn’t make much difference at first, but over time, it will make a huge difference.
  • Saving doesn’t much difference at first, but over time…
  • And building your business doesn’t seem to be making much difference at first, but keep at it, and over time…

You get the point. Thus, the most basic application of this book can be summarised thus: “Keep doing what is good for you, day in, day out, even when you don’t see any difference, because it will eventually come in the end, and when it does, it will be significant.”

The time factor

The way this works is through time, and being consistent over time. He says “life is not a clickable link”, a very pertinent metaphor to a digital world that expects things to be immediate.

Normally, we see time passing as a bad thing, but Olson says,

There is a natural progression to success: plant, cultivate, harvest — and the central step, cultivate, can only happen over the course of time.

I like that. This has been one of my main takeaways. Normally I feel like time is against me, but this has flipped my mind into seeing time as my ally now.

For instance, as a consultant, I am always working on leads. It would be easy to see time as frustrating — “why won’t they get back to me” — however, now I can view time as an asset. While I waiting for this person to get back to me, I let time work on them, taking the material I have provided (and will continue to provide), and working it down into their thinking.

You can’t be static

Another idea Olson posits is that because the universe is in constant change, one cannot stand still. You are either progressing, or declining, but you are never just hovering in the middle.

Thus, the slight edge again is about that daily routine, quite literally, that slight amount of effort that sets you apart.

Personally, I’d rather have a day off every now and then, but I do recognise from my own life how great I feel when I am at the gym regularly, for instance, or eating well everyday.

Another point on not being static is that your goal will always end up being different to what you think it will be. So, given that you spend most of your time actually “off-target” for your goal in one sense, learn to be content with moving rather than perfecting.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a lot more in this book, although if you’ve read your fair share of self-help books, much of it won’t be new, and accordingly, I skim read much of this. However, when I slowed down to take in a section, I still found it enjoyable and a pertinent refresher if nothing else. If you are new to self-help / business books, this could quite change your life.

On the negative, there were some parts of the book I was uncomfortable with, but that is more to do with my aversion to gurus. Otherwise, I’d rate this book highly. It’s not as snappy as something like Eat That Frog, but it is enjoyable none the less, and does have some real nuggets that bring down the veneer of success some self-help books like to present.

My Values

6165175146_f3706368c7_b

On my journey to discover who I am, I have been thinking about my values. By codifying my values, I hope to have a list of criteria for things that I do, then if what I’m doing doesn’t reflect this list of values, it’s the wrong thing for me to be doing.

I took me a while to get the list together, but I finally was able to boil it down to 5, each beginning with a different vowel. The 5 initial letters gave me a challenge to really think this through and pick what are the quintessential values for me:

A – Authentic
E – Essentially
I – Integrity
O – Orderly
U – Unity

Authenticity is being true to myself, open with my life, being genuine. This would probably be the number one word that people use to describe me when they talk to me, something I hold as a great honour.

Essentially is about minimalism and essentialism. It’s an adverb, so it’s about how I do things.

Integrity is doing what’s right by others and by myself. Integrity is very important to me.

Orderly is about doing things in a systematic way. It doesn’t mean pushing order onto others or not being able to handle the messiness of life, rather it’s an adverb about how I naturally seem to do things in an orderly, systematic way, and as a leader bring order to chaos. This means that when I do something, I can turn it into a framework or maxim, which I love.

Unity is being one with the world, with nature, with others, and therefore not being judgmental. There’s a spiritual element to this, but also an aspiration to be someone who’s at peace with others, rather than in antagonism with those I find difficult.

What I like is that as vowels, these are my “vowels” – and every “word” that I write with me life will have will them in it. They are also my “vows” – the way that I commit to living.

The difficult journey of being yourself

Years ago I read that as a leader you will have your own values that you lead by. This was a revelation to me – I had assumed that as a leader who should get rid of your own personality (I was a self-effacing church leader, after all!)

Recently I have returned to business after a hiatus, and one of my struggles has been to create the offerings that people will buy from me.

The struggle has been twofold. First of all, it’s finding out what’s valuable to others that I have. But the second has been in the way I’ve tried to edit who I am in order to provide that value.

Then in a moment of frustration (and to be honest, depression) a month or so ago I realised that I was making a mistake. Why was I trying to change myself in order to be valuable to others? Or, was it that I need to become even more driven, more promotional, to make things work?

Then I read this tweet, from my friend Adam, that really set me free from this pressure:

What a beautiful line! “Be yourself. Eventually we all are.”

Isn’t that just the truth? How often do we try to edit ourselves for something to end up only reverting back to ourselves in the end anyway. Thus, I realised that I would save a lot of time if I could create business offerings that were as close to the authentic me as possible.

I’m still on that process of working that out. (Hey, clarity is hard work!)

But, I have made progress by codifying my values – the essence of who I am. More on that another day.

 

Focussing In

Some say that you should make your goals public, others say you shouldn’t. I probably sit on the keep-it-to-yourself end of the spectrum.

But one goal that I will make public is my desire to focus.

I was thinking today how what is one person’s inspiring is another’s distracting. I have to be careful about how much inspiration I let in: TED Talks, upbeat ‘you can do it’ LinkedIn posts, people going crazy over Gary Vaynerchuk or Michael Hyatt, or talking about personal branding.

Hey, I love that stuff. But for me, what is another’s inspiring, is my distracting. If I’m not careful, one little bit of content, and I’m off tangent and off focus.

Thus, this year’s goal is to add nothing more to my three goals (one for each of my three current projects). My goal is to focus.

Wish me luck!

Any day now, I’ll be a dad for the first time. Then again, I’ve been one for years.

wp-content-uploads-2011-04-feb0330-edit-1024x685

So my wife is 4 days overdue. I haven’t really talked about it here or online much, not because I haven’t wanted to but I just haven’t really go around to it for one reason or another.

So here we are – any day now my wonderful wife will give birth to our first wonderful child, whatever sex it may be.

The question I keep getting asked is – are you a dad yet? – to which my answer is “almost”. But part of me wants to say that I already am.

Continue reading “Any day now, I’ll be a dad for the first time. Then again, I’ve been one for years.”

Whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right.

I was having dinner with some people the other week and no matter what I said, they always retorted with a negative. It reminded of what John Maxwell said:

Whether you say you can or you can’t, your’re right.

You get the idea here: your attitude determines your action.

But the deeper thought for me is, how do you help these people start believing that they can? Continue reading “Whether you say you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Keeping A Good To-do List

6-11409154_7d2291c372_m.jpgI used to think that keeping a to-do list was a common thing but actually it is very uncommon. What’s even less common is to have a to-do list that isn’t just a numbered list of things to be done one day.

Stress is produced in our lives when we don’t know what to do. The pressure of having a big project is different to stressing about the project. Pressure is a challenge that draws us up to higher levels. Stress is when our minds are overloaded because of that pressure – but I believe you can have pressure without stress! Stress comes when you don’t know what to do with your project.

The most common mistake with a to-do list is to just make a hope list or a project list. While you should keep a project list of things that you are working on, and a someday list for things to be done one day in the future but not necessarily to be done, the main to-do list is where your very next actions go. This is also called your “Next List”.

For example, “Clean the car” is not a task, it is a project, and therefore writing that down in your to-do list isn’t helpful, it’s daunting. Rather you should write down “Pick up vacuum cleaner to clean car”, and “Purchase car cleaning products.” This way you have the next action and relieve stress. Continue reading “Keeping A Good To-do List”