Book Review : The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Successes

 In Inner First Class, Outer First Class

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Successes

Author: Jeff Olson

Success Books, 2005, 2011

198 pages


I picked up this book after hearing the rave reviews of people at an industry conference I attended. I was expecting, based on the title, for advice on being more efficient/effective/productive/insert buzz word here in your work. Being a personal growth book enthusiast, I was sure there would be some golden nuggets here.

And I was right. The Slight Edge is about being consistent. Day in, day out, making small efforts to improve your overall life and being diligent about it. It is the things that are easy to do and easy NOT to do that put you on the success curve or the failure curve. It is these small, consistent efforts that show up over the long haul and may not be evident for years until finally your work pays off This is evidenced when you start climbing to the top while those who were wishy-washy about their improvement efforts slide down the path of failure.

In a sense, the author has written 198 pages of common sense. But it is common sense that most people need to hear.

Mr. Olson’s anecdotes and stories are memorable and pair well with his Slight Edge Philosophy. He offers bits of wisdom that are so simple, yet smack you in the face such as “Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do” or “The predominant state of mind displayed by these people on the failure curve is blame. The predominant state of mind displayed by these people on the success curve is responsibility.”

The author presents a lot of good recommendations on how to implement this philosophy and offers many personal stories from readers to inspire and uplift.

While overall I appreciated the book and valued its content, there were a few things that I wasn’t crazy about. First, he seemed to be quite preoccupied with hard work. It’s almost like if your whole life isn’t consumed with all these daily disciplines you’re going to be a big fat failure. If you join a bowling league you may as well give up because you’re going to be a miserable loser because you could be spending those few hours a week doing something “more important.” (No room for fun and recreation, I guess…sounds like a great successful life…) I believe diligence and honest efforts that you can be proud of are very important, but it’s also important to be happy in there here and now. Not everyone lives to enjoy retirement.

Second, if I tried to implement all these daily disciplines I wouldn’t have time for my job. He really does throw a lot at you and if you try to take it all in at once you will be overwhelmed. The reader needs to take what works for them and not worry about the rest of it until a later time. If you really try to go all out and do everything you will end up quitting in frustration. A bit more emphasis on balance and steady implementation might be helpful.

Third, he really slams “shortcuts.” There are no shortcuts, he says. Hmmm, I thought that was called efficiency. So if I find a way to get where I want to be faster I should say no and slog along because hard work is where it’s at? Eh. No, I’ll keep my Microsoft Word over the typewriter. I wonder what Tim Ferris would say about his no shortcuts statement…

While it seems like a lot of criticism, I really did like the book and do recommend it with some caveats. I believe that most people can get a lot out of it and you will be better off having read it. I definitely agree with him that your regular, daily efforts do multiply themselves like compound interest – another great analogy of his.

Note: there has been an update and expansion of this book released in late 2013 which I have not yet read.

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