The Slight Edge
Life has an automatic downward pull on it. When we grow up we hear five times as many no’s as yes’es. People on the success curve live in responsibility. Every time you face a choice, you can choose to step on the upward curve or fall on the downward curve.
The Law of Association
Your income tends to equal the average of the incomes of your five best friends. That principle applies to every aspect of your life. Health, happiness personal development; it will all average that of your five best friends. We get to be like the people we surround ourselves with. It’s the law of association.
Steady Wins the Race
You can’t steer a parked car. Steering becomes easier when you’re in motion. But go too fast and steering becomes dangerous. Steady wins the race. Imagine taking a brisk twenty-minute walk in the morning, and working out on a home gym for another twenty minutes in the afternoon. How would that make you feel at the end of the week? What if you instead took a 140-minute walk on that first day and then working out for 140-minutes in the afternoon, and then did nothing for the next six days? Steady wins the race.
At the end of the day, write down what I did do during the day.
- Did I read ten pages of a good book?
- Did I eat healthy food and got some exercise?
- Did I engage in positive associations?
- How many words did I write?
“Work expands to fill the time available for completion.” This means that if you don’t give yourself a fixed timeline, the work will expand indefinitely. In the world of finance, it transforms into “Whatever I have, I spend.”
There is a natural progression to life: you plant, then you cultivate, and finally you harvest. What’s lacking in our society today is the part of cultivating. We plant seeds and expect to have the results instantly. We buy the gym card, put in three or four hours, and expect to see results. This is not how cultivating works. It requires time.
Beware the Quantum Leap
Don’t buy into the myth that success happens overnight, that you can make a quantum leap. You can’t warp yourself from point A to point Z. Solutions don’t drop out of the blue sky. They are the “sudden” result of long patient years of tireless repeated effort.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.” Don’t go look for excuses to get to happiness. Happiness is something you can practice right now, every day.
Happiness vs. Personal Development
Only 10 percent of the general population are genuinely open to working on personal development. If you switch that to happiness, then suddenly 10 percent becomes more like 50 percent. People are more interested in happiness than in personal development.
If you ask a pair of parents if you could make their child more personally developed or rich, most likely they would say, “Rich.” But if you say, “I can make your child either rich, or happy,” then 9 times out of 10 they would immediately choose happiness.
There is a tension between where you are today and where you could be. It’s like a magnetic pull wanting to show you the way. This is an open space that you can bridge. What pulls those who dwell in the failure curve? The past. What pulls those who dwell on the success curve? The future.
Learn to harness the power of time in the pursuit of all your aims. The most important force you can harness to accelerate and amplify your path through life is the power of continuous learning.
The Gyroscope and Processor
The idea that I have a gyroscope and processor resonates with me. The gyroscope is my vision, where I want to go. The processor is the course corrector which helps me in every day situations to take the right decisions.
Get around the people you want to be like. It’s only by immersing yourself together with other people you want to be like, which will make you more like them. Which will make you better at what you do.
“Sow an Act…”
- ”Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
- There are two types of habits: those that serve you, and those that don’t.
- Most people know what they should do. But 95 percent of the people don’t do them. That’s the difference to the 5 percent that actually do the work. Everything is in the doing.
- The same activities that take us from failure to survival would also take us from survival to success—if we would just keep doing them. You have complete control over the that the rest of your life takes.
- The secret ingredient to success is your philosophy. Change the way you think about everyday things and you change your life.
- Your philosophy creates your attitude, which creates your actions, which creates your results, which creates your life.
- Daily routines are simple daily disciplines
- The simple things that lead to success are all easy to do. But they’re also just as easy not to do.
Once I got a little way above survival and was starting to head up into the warmer waters of success, without realizing it or thinking about it, I would stop doing the things that had gotten me there. Naturally, I would then start sinking back down again, back down toward survival and beyond, back down toward the failure line. And I did that every time.
Things like taking a few dollars out of a paycheck, putting it into savings, and leaving it there. Or doing a few minutes of exercise every day—and not skipping it. Or reading ten pages of an inspiring, educational, life-changing book every day. Or taking a moment to tell someone how much you appreciate them, and doing that consistently, every day, for months and years.
You could call these “little virtues” or “success habits.” I call them simple daily disciplines. Simple productive actions, repeated consistently over time.
I’ve done the exact same thing every time, using ridiculously simple strategies made up of ridiculously simple lists of ridiculously simple actions.
How to do it is not the issue. If “how to do it” were the answer, it’d be done. It’s how you do the “hows” that’s most important.
If you don’t change how you think about these simple everyday things, then no amount of how-to’s will get you anywhere or give you any true solutions. Because it’s not the hows that do it, it’s how you do the hows.
Emotions change like the wind, and you can’t stop them. No one can. They keep moving; that’s why they’re called emotions and not e-standingstills.
A positive philosophy turns into a positive attitude, which turns into positive actions, which turns into positive results, which turns into a positive lifestyle. A positive life.
“I have not failed. I’ve simply discovered ten thousand ways that don’t work.”
Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.
Your philosophy creates your attitudes, which create your actions, which create your results, which create your life.
It’s never too late to start. It’s always too late to wait.
“Always live below your means.”
Parkinson’s Law goes like this: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
Fundamentally, we all take pretty much the same actions every day. We eat, sleep, think, feel, talk, and listen.
Here’s a slight edge action guaranteed to change your life: read just ten pages of a good book, a book aimed at improving your life, every day. If you read ten pages of a good book today, will your life change? Of course not. If you don’t read ten pages of a good book today, will your life fall apart? Obviously not.
Like a penny over time, reading ten pages a day would compound, just like that, and create inside you a ten-million-dollar bank of knowledge.
There is a natural progression in life: you plant, then you cultivate, and finally you harvest. In the days when we were an agrarian society, everyone knew this. It wasn’t something anyone had to think about, it was self-evident: just the way things were. Plant, cultivate, harvest. But that’s changed. Today, we have to learn it.
In a world filled with instant coffee, instant breakfast, instant credit, instant shopping, instant information, and 24/7 news, we have come dangerously close to losing touch with reality and believing we have access to instant life.
“Time is like water: it gives life to everything, and flows in places most people just don’t get.”
Knowing the secret of time, you say, “If I stay on this road long enough, I’ll get the result I’m seeking.” It’s not a question of your mood or your feelings. And it’s not a question of will power. It’s a question of simply knowing.
The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.
To grasp how the slight edge works, you have to view your actions through the eyes of time.
You already have the time. You already have the skill, the confidence. You already have everything you need to achieve everything you want. You just can’t see it.
Life means your health. The healthier you are, the more life you experience. Better health not only lets you live out all the days of a longer life, it also lets you live more life in each and every one of those days.
Financial health gives you freedom; freedom to follow your passions, chase your pursuits, develop your skills and talents and gifts, to fulfill the promises of life itself.
“Personal development” sounds to most people like work, and who wants to work harder than they are already working? But “happiness” doesn’t sound like work. It sounds like … well, it sounds like being happier.
What I realized was that while the slight edge was the missing ingredient people need to make their lives work, happiness was the missing ingredient that quite a few people needed to make the slight edge work. Happiness. The perfect workout partner for the slight edge.
Each morning, write down three things you’re grateful for. Not the same three every day; find three new things to write about. That trains your brain to search your circumstances and hunt for the positive.
Journal for two minutes a day about one positive experience you’ve had over the past twenty-four hours. Write down every detail you can remember; this causes your brain to literally reexperience the experience, which doubles its positive impact.
Do a random act of kindness over the course of each day. To make this simple, Shawn often recommends a specific act of kindness: at the start of each day, take two minutes to write an email to someone you know praising them or thanking them for something they did.
Through your everyday attention to those simple positive actions, your happy habits and daily disciplines, you don’t only have an impact on yourself, you are also having a powerful impact on everyone around you.
Great success often starts from a tiny beginning—but there has to be a beginning. You have to start somewhere. You have to do something.
People on the success curve live a life of responsibility. They take full responsibility for who they are, where they are, and everything that happens to them.
But it’s not even a question of wishing: take care with what you think. Because what you think, multiplied by action plus time, will create what you get.
Review the past, but only for the purpose of making a better plan.
In a constantly and rapidly changing world like ours, you simply cannot remain the same as you were yesterday. You are in motion—you have no choice in that. But motion in which direction? You have total choice in that.
The past does not equal the future.
“All truth passes through three stages,” the great German philosophy Arthur Schopenhauer reportedly observed. “First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Gandhi put it this way: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Both quotations show a brilliant insight into the nature of the 95 percent.
Of the slightly more than 7 billion people on earth, according to the United Nations, more than 1 billion cannot read. Can you imagine that? One person out of every seven—1 billion people.
the problem is not that people read too little, but that they fill their brains with stuff that ain’t doing them no good.
Life is doing. If you aren’t doing, you’re dying.
Your gyroscope is your vision of where you’re going—in other words, your dream. Your processor is the slight edge: a consistent series of tiny, seemingly insignificant actions, easy to do and easy not to do, and in this case, doing them leads you directly to the moon instead of shooting off into the vacuum of outer space.
The purpose of investing in yourself is not to accumulate skills or fluency in specific areas of knowledge. While those things are valuable, they are not the principal aim. The principal aim in self-investment is to train how you think and what you think.
Most everything else about the slight edge, as you already know, is easy to do—but disassociating yourself from people who do not empower you can be a painful and difficult thing to do.
When you start at the beginning of anything, you’re at the highest level of anxiety. As you learn—through study and doing, information and experience, book smarts and street smarts—you gradually lower your level of anxiety by raising your level of mastery.
Remember, people who live on the success curve are pulled by the future, while those who dwell on the failure curve are pulled by the past.
Some people accomplish this by keeping a journal. If you choose this approach, here’s the key to making it work: don’t just write down a record of what happened today, along with your thoughts and feelings about what happened. Ask yourself specific slight edge questions. “In each area of my life, what are the critical, simple little things that are easy to do, and easy not to do? Did I do them? Did I move forward? Did I ride the success curve?”
There are two kinds of habits: those that serve you, and those that don’t. Brushing your teeth is a habit that serves you; biting your nails is one that doesn’t.
Showing up is essential. Showing up consistently is powerful. Showing up consistently with a positive outlook is even more powerful. But doing all that for a week … is just doing it for a week.
A burning desire backed by faith simply means deeply, passionately wanting to get somewhere and knowing—not hoping, not wishing, but knowing that you’re going to get there. In other words, there has to be congruence between your desire and your faith.
The average person spends 250 to 350 hours every year driving from this place to that. That’s forty minutes to an hour every day. If you spend that time listening to educational and self-improvement material, you’ll have the equivalent of a Ph.D. on any subject you choose in just a few years. And you’ll start noticing a difference in how you look at life in months, maybe even sooner.
Abraham Lincoln spoke about taking twice as long to sharpen the axe as to hack at the tree. In your life, you are the axe; the slight edge is how you sharpen it. Sharpen yourself and pursue your path through those simple, small, easy disciplines, and compounded over time, they will take you to the top