Today we’re looking at some key findings from the book The Slight Edge.
I loved the book and highly recommend it. I wish I had read and applied it early in my life — things would have turned out even better than they did if I had!
We left off in part 1 of this series with the question why more people don’t use the slight edge (doing small, simple tasks daily that add up to big results) if it’s so easy and has such great results.
Here’s how the book answers this:
If slight edge habits are so easy to do, and will lead to phenomenal success, why doesn’t everyone do them? That is literally the $10 million question. And it has a few answers.
Reason #1: They’re Easy to Do
From the book:
The first answer is one I learned from Jim Rohn: The simple things that lead to success are all easy to do. But they’re also just as easy not to do.
It’s easy to save a few bucks a day. And easy not to.
It’s easy to do fifteen minutes of cardio a day. Walk a brisk mile or two. Truly easy to do. Or not.
It may not be easy to get into graduate school and pour yourself into Ph.D. studies for eighty hours a week for a few years straight. But here’s something that is easy: pick up an inspiring, educational, life-changing book like The Millionaire Next Door, or Think and Grow Rich, or The Magic of Thinking Big, and read ten pages a day. Just ten pages a day. So easy to do… and so easy not to do.
Remembering to tell your wife or husband that you love them, and do that every day. What could be easier than that? To do—or not to do.
So while anyone could do these successful actions, most won’t, simply because it’s so easy to skip them. And the tragic irony of it is, that doesn’t actually end up making their lives any easier. We’re all doing simple things anyway. Unsuccessful people just choose what they think is the path of least resistance. But it really isn’t.
We talked about self-control in the first post and I think the thoughts above relate to it.
It’s easy to take small, simple steps every day if you have some self-control.
But for those who don’t, it’s easy to let those pass by as not important, meaningful, or needed — at least today.
Then today turns into a week, then a month, then a year, then a decade. And time slips by with no action.
In other words (and I’ve said this before on other posts usually related to growing your career) a cruise-control life gets cruise-control results. If you just let things happen and “go with the flow”, then your outcome most likely won’t be what you want it to be.
But if you take a few small steps each day in various areas where you want to improve your life (including your finances) the impact over time can be tremendous.
It all comes down to how you spend your time.
A few months ago podcaster Joe Rogan said that video games were a waste of time. His thoughts:
“Video games are a real problem,” Rogan said. “They’re a real problem. You know why? Because they’re fun. They’re [addictive], I have a real problem with them. You do them, and they’re real exciting, but you don’t get anywhere.”
Comparing gaming to martial arts, he continued: “You could be doing something exciting and fun, or you could just be playing video games.
“Three years later you could just be that same kid, just playing video games, waiting for the next whatever game is…and you’re gonna waste your time.”
Now I’m a big fan of video games as well as the broader arena of entertainment. I’m not one of those financial guys that advocates all saving, no spending, and thus no fun. There needs to be a balance.
But…there needs to be a balance. And these days, most people are way out of balance. And it’s not just (or even) video games.
Consider this from Rich Habits:
In my Rich Habits Study, 67% of the wealthy watched less than an hour of TV a day, or about 365 hours of TV a year. That’s 883 fewer TV-watching hours than the average person.
So if the average person watches 3.4 hours of TV PER DAY ( (883 + 365)/ 365 days in year) ) that’s overkill IMO. And that doesn’t take into account other entertainment-related options like video games, going to movies, etc.
Might I suggest that these people take one hour per day (which still gives them over two hours per day to watch TV alone) and work on a few habits to improve their lives? Is that too much to ask?
And yet it’s so easy to watch one more episode of Game of Orange is the New Walking Dead blah, blah, blah instead and let the simple things go undone.
Now let’s move on to the second reason the book gives for why more people don’t use the simple edge…
Reason #2: The Results Are Invisible
From the book:
The second reason people don’t do the little things that add up to success is that at first, they don’t add up to success.
And that’s the problem. The things that create success in the long run don’t look like they’re having any impact at all in the short run. A penny doubled in two cents. Big deal. Take two bucks a day and stick it into savings instead of into an expensive coffee drink, and at the end of a week you’ve got.. fourteen dollars. Big deal.
You know what you’re supposed to eat. We all do. Fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, salads, whole grains, lean meats, more fish and poultry and less beef… You know it, I know it, we all know it. So why do so many of us still go out and chow down cheeseburgers and fries every day?
I’ll tell you why: because it won’t kill us. Not today.
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.
I could tell you that if you would agree to read ten pages of one of these good books every single day, over time, you could not help but accumulate all the knowledge you’d ever need to be as successful as you could ever want to be. 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. If you kept this up for a year, you would have read 3,650 pages—the equivalent of one or two dozen books of life-transforming material. Would your life have changed? Absolutely. No question.
But here’s the problem: back here in the present, on day 1 of week 1, all of that is way in the future.
When you make the right choice, you don’t see the results, at least not today. And that is a problem in our push-button, mouse-click, 24-hour-new world. We expect to see results, and we expect to see them.
This is a big problem.
People want results NOW and (IMO) are often willing to sacrifice a long-term greater gain for a short-term pleasure.
They sacrifice saving now because that new iPhone is a “must buy”.
They don’t grow their network because “just one more” contact “isn’t worth it.”
They put off investing because they “know” the market is going up/down today/soon. And what does a few days mean anyway?
Something put off today, then the next day, and so on doesn’t look like it’s costing much since there’s no discernable gain day-to-day.
But if neglected over time, a big opportunity is missed. That’s the point. It’s the time invested in a simple action that yields tremendous results. But if you postpone that action, you cut down the time, and thus the results.
Next we have the third and final reason why people don’t do the slight edge…
Reason #3: They Seem Insignificant
From the book:
The third reason most people live out their entire lives without ever grasping how the slight edge is working in their lives it that is just seems like those little things don’t really matter.
So I skipped a day at the gym. What’s a day? Hey it’s just a cheeseburger. What’s the fuss?
The difference between success and failure is not dramatic. In fact, the difference between success and failure is so subtle, so mundane, that most people miss it. They may not realize they have a philosophy, but they do, and it goes like this: What I do right now doesn’t really matter.
It’s hard not to see how people come to this understanding of life. I don’t blame them. It’s completely understandable. It’s just not the truth. The truth is, what you do matters.
What you do today matters.
What you do every day matters.
Successful people are those who understand that the little choices they make matter, and because of that they choose to do things that seem to make no difference at all in the act of doing them, and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.
By this time, I think you get it. This point is so much like point #2 that it’s not worth reiterating IMO.
By now it’s clear that small, simple, daily tasks can add up to big gains over time. But on any given day they are easy to ignore and have no apparent life impact.
Which is why they are so easy to avoid. And since most people let their lives go with the flow, they neglect the basics that could improve their lives dramatically.
These apply to every area of life, not just money. They relate to health, relationships, careers, and on and on.
And don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying I was the poster child for doing small task all my life. I’ll admit I wasn’t the best at this sort of thing much of the time I was working/growing my net worth. There were many days where I did nothing. It’s one of the things I’m sorry about — so much wasted time and opportunity.
That said, I did more than most.
Here’s a quick overview of my process:
- Every year I would set goals (resolutions if you prefer) for what I wanted to accomplish in various areas of my life.
- I would break each of those goals down into mini-goals that would sequentially get me to accomplish the larger goal.
- I would break these down further to daily tasks (tracked by a to-do list) to make sure I was doing what I needed to reach my goal.
For example, here’s an easy one made so simple with the help of automation:
- Let’s say my goal was to save $24,000 a year.
- That means I needed to save $2,000 a month.
- I set up automatic investments each pay period so part of my check would go to my 401k and part would go to Vanguard.
- At the end of the year, I had saved what I wanted.
Sometimes you can skip the annual goal part but still accomplish what you want.
Here’s an example from my life now:
- I want to keep my mind sharp in retirement, so I’ve set up several tasks to make sure I challenge myself.
- A few of the daily to-do’s I have: complete three chess puzzles, do a Sudoku puzzle, and write three posts per week.
- I have these set up as tasks in Todoist (the program I use to remind me to complete them) so I keep on track with them.
BTW, I am a big believer in the phrase “a short pencil is better than a long memory”, so I write things down (electronically now, it used to be with a pencil/pen) so I don’t forget them.
A few other daily tasks I have listed:
- Use the foam roller to work out the kinks in my muscles.
- Complete cardio (4x per week) and strength (100 pushups a day) training.
- Read/review 10 pages a day from a great book with my son.
- Walk at least 20k steps.
- Take a walk with my wife.
And so on.
As you see, none of these have an immediate impact or results in the moment. All would be easy to ignore any given day.
Yet I stick with them and over time they work to keep me healthier and happier.
So, what are some of your daily habits that are “musts” in your life?
For more on this book, check out part 3 of this series.