What’s the one thing that separates you from wildly successful people in this world? It’s really quite simple. If you knew what the one thing was, would you do it? Do you really want success?
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson is one of the best personal development books I’ve read. In my opinion it explains some of the keys to success. I’ll try to summarize here with some stories.
You’re at a restaurant looking at the menu and lots of things look good. There’s the burger that’s always tasty and there are 5 different salads. You can choose a soda to drink, wine, or water (there are lots of choices). You’re trying to lose weight, but you’re out to eat and eating a burger with a soda for one meal won’t make you unhealthy.
You’re at the store and see the cutest, coolest apron you’ve ever seen. When you see it it will make you happy and when other people see it they’ll smile and get a kick out of it. You’re trying to save money, but this is a little thing and it’s only 5 dollars – you won’t go bankrupt spending 5 dollars.
The One Big Thing
People have the impression that there’s some big thing to do to be rich. They assume it takes a lot of work to be healthy. Nope!
When people invest to become rich, they don’t go to the store and say to themselves, “I’ll just buy that one thing and invest later.” Healthy people don’t just say, “I’ll eat a hamburger and fries today and eat healthy another time.” People that successfully break free of the mediocrity that is the current american dream don’t just say “I’ll read a self help book tomorrow – today I feel like watching Game of Thrones.” People that are successful in these things make small, practically insignificant choices that are better than other small insignificant choices. They order a salad and water instead of a hamburger (60 minutes later they’re not hungry and they feel good about what they ate). They don’t buy another household ornament and when they walk away from buying one at the store, 60 seconds later they’ve already forgotten about it. They spend time every day reading at least 10 pages of a self improvement book, and THEN they watch Game of Thrones.
These little everyday choices that don’t matter add up – they compound over time. Reading 10 pages of an educational book every day adds up to 3,650 pages every year. That’s a lot of books and it only took 10 pages a day. The key is actually doing it – actually making that very small decision to take that ever so small action, to do something to improve. It’s very easy to do these things. It’s also trivially and ever so minutely easier to not do them. And that’s where most people stay: taking the easiest path possible and never improving.
People expect a quantum leap of success or improvement, but actually success is built one step at a time. You wouldn’t say to Neil Armstrong, “Wow Neil, that was a great step onto the moon. How’d you do that?” When people ask CEOs, “What has made you so successful,” they don’t respond with, “Well, Monday I was a poor lazy slob and Tuesday I caught my big break!” It’s the tiny little choices that these people have made over time that have made them successful. They weren’t born that way. They didn’t plan on being extraordinarily successful when they walked into kindergarten. They made small, easy choices to improve themselves. That is The Slight Edge.
10 Minutes to a Better You
“Oh great, so now I have to eat healthy and read books all the time?” Uh, no. Just read 10 pages a day; that’s 8 to 20 minutes depending on how fast you read. Can you spare that little time to improve yourself?
What kind of difference can something so small make? 3,650 pages means you could read The Slight Edge, Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, Think and Grow Rich, The Intelligent Investor, and A Beginner’s Guide to Investing and still have 1,932 pages left. By the end of one year you would be a different person.
The Most Important Step
Is there a “most important step” to being successful? Yes. Success is like running an ultra marathon. The most important step you take is the first one. Starting is the most important step.