Today we’re looking at some key findings from the book The Slight Edge. I’ll share what the author says as well as my thoughts.
This post will wrap up the series with a focus on three major issues: being happy, learning and growing throughout your life, and setting and achieving goals.
Let’s get started…
How to Be Happy
Towards the end of the book, it shifts focus a bit to talking about being happy in life (and how to do that by incorporating The Slight Edge).
The author’s thoughts:
Here’s the equation: Slight edge + happy habits = success. It’s that simple.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, is the happiness researcher and author I’ve worked with most. I have brought him into my company to conduct three-hour workshops on how to be happy as I am committed to spreading happiness! Shawn teaches a set of simple things you can do every day that, if you do them consistently over time, will make you significantly, noticeably, measurably happier. They are slight edge actions for happiness: happy habits.
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 re-experience the experience, which doubles its positive impact.
Meditate daily. Nothing fancy; just stop all activity, relax, and watch your breath go in and out for two minutes. This trains your brain to focus where you want it to, and not get distracted by negativity in your environment.
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.
Exercise for fifteen minutes daily. Simple cardio, even a brisk walk, has a powerful antidepressant impact, in many cases stronger (and more long-lasting) than an actual antidepressant.
Start with just one and keep repeating it until it becomes a habit, then add another, and so on.
Here’s how I handle these:
- I have a daily task that’s simply listed as “Be thankful.” When I see it I think of one thing I’m thankful for. Then I cross it off the list, knowing it will remind me to so the same the next day (I use an electronic to-do list and this task is set to show up every day.)
- I don’t do the journaling or meditation. I probably needed them both while working, but now that I’m retired life is so Zen I’m fine. LOL.
- I do random acts of kindness now and then, not every day. Something like giving all the workers at my gym a $10 Amazon card to dropping quarters on the ground as I walk (on purpose for people to find) to giving the barista a $25 gift card and telling her to treat people until it runs out. Separately we are givers to charity through our donor-advised fund https://esimoney.com/the-advantages-of-using-a-donor-advised-fund/. I prefer to give in fewer, but larger chunks. Giving is generally our second largest “expense” after taxes.
- I exercise a few hours every day on average. The official gym exercise (weights or cardio) is 45 minutes to an hour. But then I walk 20k steps a day and play pickleball at least four times a week.
I would add a few other keys to being happy — at least for me:
- Have amazing relationships with those closest to you. For me, this is my wife, kids, and my dad. If we’re all good with each other, things are great. If something’s out of whack, my life seems out of balance. Fortunately, we’re all pretty happy with each other most of the time.
- Have interests you enjoy. For me it’s pickleball, blogging, reading, traveling, and spending time with family. There are more than those, but these are the main ones. I find that people who have several interests tend to be happier in life. Those who don’t, often struggle (in fact, the top cause of “failing” in retirement is the lack of things to do — people then simply become bored with a ton of free time and no way to spend it.).
- Eliminate as many negatives as you can. This is why I’ve given up watching the news and being active on social media. These are two time and energy sucks IMO and I don’t need them in my life.
The book goes on to talk about the five items above as well as add some more:
There is fascinating logic and powerful research behind all five, but these are not the only happy habits that the research supports; these are just five good examples. Other happiness researchers have different lists, including things like:
- Make more time for friends.
- Practice savoring the moment.
- Practice having a positive perspective.
- Put more energy into cultivating your relationships.
- Practice forgiveness.
- Engage in meaningful activities.
- Practice simple acts of giving.
- Because I place a high value on personal development and learning, my list would include: Read at least ten pages of a good book daily.
I am into several of these as well.
Much of my social group is around pickleball and I know 50 people or so fairly well through it (though I have a close group of 10-15).
I have a wide range of activities I enjoy — including blogging and running the Millionaire Money Mentors forums.
I “read” a ton every day. Read is in quotes because much of my “reading” is actually listening. I listen to podcasts as well as books and I have a stack of both always ready to dive into.
Which of these do you enjoy and why?
Learn and Grow throughout Your Life
After discussing happiness, the book turns to learning and growing throughout your life (which is related to happiness IMO).
The wisest investment you can make is to invest in your own continuous learning and development.
Learning by studying and learning by doing—book smarts and street smarts—are the two essential pistons of the engine of learning.
Some thoughts on this:
- I’ve talked about the power of continuing to learn throughout your career and the impact it can have to your earning potential.
- I think people who are interested in life and thus learn and grow throughout their lives are happier in general. I certainly see this trait as a big benefit in retirement. Many of those who “fail” at retirement do so for lack of imagination and curiosity IMO. If they would simply be interested in more things, they would keep learning and growing and not have time to be bored in retirement. Ha!
- I agree that there are both book smarts as well as street smarts. The former can be learned by reading, going to school, etc. The latter is a bit tougher. It takes living life for some time and/or having someone who knows the ropes guide and lead you.
Which brings us to a learning and growing subject that’s near and dear to my heart…
The Power of Mentors
The book now starts singing the praises of mentors — a tune I particularly like. Haha.
Some initial thoughts from the author:
Throughout human history, and long before there were such things as books, universities, or continuing ed programs, there has been a tried and true path for learning a skill, craft, art, trade, or profession: go study with a master. All the great learning traditions say the same thing: if you want to learn how to do something well, go find someone who has already mastered that skill, and apprentice yourself.
The truth is, this third type of learning isn’t simply a valuable add-on to the other two. It’s essential. Learning pure information is not enough, and while adding the street smarts you gain from applying that information through personal experience can take you far, even that is not enough to go all the way toward the successful achievement of your goals. You need some way to process all that information and experience and integrate it. And there is only one reliable, solid way to do that: find someone else who has already achieved mastery in the area you’re looking at, and model your behavior based on their experience.
Personal development is not something you can pursue as an armchair expert, not something you can master from the sidelines. It has to be a contact sport—one where you are in contact with others you can help you on your journey. What we’re talking about here is the power of a mentor.
He summarizes his thoughts in suggesting these as a summary for this chapter:
If you want to learn how to do something well, find someone who has mastered that skill and apprentice yourself.
Choose your heroes carefully: are they genuine role models you want to emulate?
Choose your associates: everything about your life will closely reflect the lives of your five closest friends.
Sometimes you need to let go and disassociate.
Form and use a mastermind: two minds are better than one, and five are even better.
Lots to say on this topic, so let’s get to it:
- I agree with the mentor thinking BIG TIME! I wish I had mentors when I was trying to grow my net worth, but there was no one in my life who could help me grow. So I “created” my own by reading as much as I could. People like Dr. Thomas Stanley (who wrote The Millionaire Next Door) became my mentors.
- One of the issues I used to get from ESI Money readers is that they were in a similar situation. They had no one they could turn to for financial guidance. Forget finding five great money mentors, they didn’t even have one. This is why I created the Millionaire Money Mentors forums — so people could have direct interaction with and feedback from others who have been successful with their money.
- Without mentors, people are left to the trial and error method which is fraught with issues. With the right mentors, however, people can save/earn thousands of dollars (probably at least tens of thousands) and eliminate YEARS of work by listening to people who have been there and done that.
- Mentors can be free (of course). I had several in business that helped me learn, grow, and make the most of my career. But the sensitivities around money make it more difficult to find a great financial mentor. Not to mention that people generally aren’t that great with money, so finding someone who actually knows what they are doing is often next to impossible.
- I see many people who can’t find mentors in their lives refusing to pay for money feedback because “they can find it free online.” What they are really saying is that they’d rather use the trial and error method to piece it together for themselves. I can tell you this for a fact: they will end up spending many times more that they would by joining something like the MMM simply by trying, failing, readjusting, etc. Plus they will lose YEARS in the process of becoming wealthy. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
- I know how it can be…I’ve been penny wise and pound foolish as well. But I’ve changed over time. One example is that I now have a personal trainer who I see every 2-3 weeks. He costs $90 a session and is well worth it. Could I simply watch YouTube videos and put together my own exercise plans? Of course I could. But would they be as effective? No. Would they take me hours to create and try and get right? Yes. And would they probably still not be as effective as my trainer makes them? They probably would be way less effective. Therefore, I have a trainer to help me with my health. Having a MMM subscription is like having a trainer for your money.
- I LOVE this: “go find someone who has already mastered that skill”. I wrote about this issue years ago in Why Another Financial Website? and What Makes ESI Money Different. The points made in both of those are that there are people who have proven money skills (and their success is shown) and there are those who still write about money and yet aren’t even close to success (pretend experts). Who do you think you should follow?
- It baffles me that these pretend experts have any following whatsoever, much less pretty large followings. I just don’t get it. Do people simply assume anyone with any sort of platform is worth listening to? Is it really that easy to fool so many people?
Anyway, I’m starting to beat a dead horse so let’s move on.
The last part of the book talks about establishing good habits in order to achieve life goals.
It begins this discussion with the following:
There are two kinds of habits: those that serve you, and those that don’t.
You have choice over your habits through your choice of everyday actions.
The way to erase a bad habit is to replace it with a positive habit.
Here are seven powerful, positive slight edge habits:
- Show up: be the frog who jumps off the lily pad.
- Show up consistently: keep showing up when others fade out.
- Cultivate a positive outlook: see the glass as overflowing.
- Be committed for the long haul: remember 10,000-hour rule.
- Cultivate a burning desire backed by faith: not hoping or wishing—knowing.
- Be willing to pay the price: sometimes you have to quit the softball team.
- Practice slight edge integrity: do the things you’ve committed to doing, even when no one else is watching.
I like all of these and have practiced most of them in my life — even if off and on at times.
The process that has worked best for me in creating good habits is:
- Decide what I want to accomplish in a given time period. Most of my goals are re-done annually as part of setting New Year’s resolutions. Some have due dates (like “make $10k by July 1”) while others are on-going (like “workout six times a week”).
- Break these goals into smaller, different tasks. For example, “do X, then do Y, then do Z.”
- Create to-dos based on these smaller tasks. Put them on my to-do list (I use Todoist now but have used various forms of lists through the years).
- Do those tasks as they come up. They aren’t much on a day-to-day basis, but it’s slow, steady, progress forward.
- Eventually, the small tasks add up to accomplish the goal.
Sounds a lot like the previous posts in this series, right? Small tasks added up over time can have big results.
Finally, the book ends with the following suggestions:
There are three simple, essential steps to achieving a goal:
- Write it down: give it a what (clear description) and a when (timeline).
- Look at it every day: keep it in your face; soak your subconscious in it.
- Start with a plan: make the plan simple. The point of the plan is not that it will get you there, but that it will get you started.
Hey! That sounds a lot like the process I just outlined above!
Funny how it works that way. 🙂
Well, that wraps up my summary of this book.
I really LOVED it — it’s been one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years.
It applies to all areas of life: money, health, business, relationships, and more. The principles are timeless, proven, and effective.
My only regret — I wish I had read and applied it 20 years ago. Haha.
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this book? Has anyone read it? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.