I wolfed The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson in something like 4–5 hours, and the realization finally sunk home…
Up to that moment, I was convinced that you need to be a superhero to succeed in life.
You know, success is winning a gold medal at the Olympics, living in a multimillion dollar home, driving expensive cars, traveling the world in first class and living in 5-star hotels, being a saint whose compassion, miracles and acts of mercy immediately spell sainthood, finishing two PhD faculties within three years and so on.
Those are BIG things. A common mortal cannot reach them, can he? If he reached any of those, he had to possess a lot of talent, luck or both.
Success wasn’t for me
Before I had read The Slight Edge, those were my thoughts about success. Hence, I never really tried to be successful. I’m blessed with many talents, solid health and relatively high IQ, so I had some successes under my belt, but at 18 years old I decided in my heart that success is not for me. I just was not good enough.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” — Jim Rohn
And then I read that book, and it challenged my beliefs about success. There is also another accompanying piece of the book’s message:
“Failure is simple errors in judgment repeated over time.”
I examined my life against those two statements. I found a small discipline behind every success in my life.
I was admitted at a university as third to last on the list. I didn’t crush it on entry exams. I struggled immensely the first year. I had a few re-sits. At the fourth year, I was (barely) among the top 25% of students and got a small scholarship.
The discipline: I attended almost every single lecture and classes. My peers, who were much brighter — didn’t.
I finished high school with flying colors. I was a good student, but I didn’t prepare myself especially hard for the final exams.
The discipline: I avoided the “knowledge gap” during the vacations before the final year. I studied for an hour a day whole vacations. I had no idea how I found motivation for that; it wasn’t my style at all. But thanks to that, I preserved my current level of knowledge and didn’t have to catch up in the last year.
At the moment when I read the “The Slight Edge,” I could do well over 100 pushups. I led a sedentary life and was slightly overweight, but I was also fit like very few of my peers.
The discipline: I did a single series of consecutive pushups every morning.
I substantially improved my command of English. My English was mostly self-taught. I had been taught this language in schools for 10 years, but in each level of schooling I had been starting from scratch, always in “basic” group.
The discipline: I read books in English.
I was happily married. At that moment, I had been married for almost 12 years.
The discipline: I said “I love you” to my wife almost every day, sometimes more often. As a teenager, I missed this expression in my family’s life and decided that when I start a family, I will say this as often as possible.
None of those actions was especially hard to do. The common factor was that they indeed were done consistently over long period of time.
I found an error in judgment repeated over time behind every failure in my life.
I was overweight, because I consumed all too many sweets. I had eaten a donut about every other day. This is a real caloric bomb!
I didn’t advance in my career because I was doing only enough to get by. That was a small error in judgment, but the effects were devastatingly significant. I wasn’t promoted even once in my 8-year long career.
I had been earning over two average salaries, but I wasn’t able to save more than 2–3% of income. I saved only the leftovers at the end of the month. It’s not the brightest saving strategy.
It finally dawned on me
To achieve success you need to do simple and easy disciplines consistently over time.
I grappled with the book’s message for about a month before I took a single action.
It’s not like I was awake at night thinking about it. It just never did leave the back of my mind.
I pondered: “Is it really possible that success is so simple? Does the author tell fairytales or is this applicable in reality? Can I really have so much control over my success? Is it worth it to give myself hope and try to achieve success?”
I examined my past. I examined the life stories of my friends and relatives.
Yes, it really seemed to be so simple. I’ve never thought of success in that way.
I couldn’t rid this realization from my mind. So finally, about a month after reading The Slight Edge, I sat down and did what the author advised. I wrote down some goals in six areas of my life (health, career, relationships, finance, education and personal development) and brainstormed a few daily disciplines I could practice to attain those goals.
The very same day, I started about 10 disciplines. By the way, if you ask any expert on habits building, this is a recipe for disaster.
My success ratio in sticking with those small disciplines (none was bigger than 10 minutes a day) was about 90%.
Oh, one more thing, up to that moment, I avoided at all cost any planning in my life. The last time I wrote some goals down was about 16 years prior. I stayed away from any personal development stuff and had been reflecting seriously about my life only once a year on my church community retreats.
I avoided dreams and self-analysis for 16 years, but I still brainstormed daily disciplines within 15 minutes or so and was able to stick with them for months.
After a month of practicing speed reading for ten minutes a day, I doubled my reading speed. I was excited as a kid in a candy store. I LOVE to read. Suddenly I could read twice as much in the same time span.
In the first month of my personal development journey, I overcame my shyness enough to open my mouth and utter some words to one or three strangers. That was impossible! I was so shy that, when I had been trying to approach a stranger, I felt physically sick. A lump in my throat. Mad butterflies in my stomach. Sweat on my forehead.
I didn’t notice many more results at first, but I was able to stick with my disciplines. In fact, I enjoyed them, so I decided to continue and expand my personal development program.
I started about a dozen more habits.
In less than half a year, my savings ratio consistently hit a two-digit level. By the way, in that period my wife lost her job that provided about 25% of our income.
After 7 months, I lost over 11% of my body weight and reached my dream weight. I beat numerous fitness records in the process.
I discovered I wanted to be a writer and started to write consistently. In April 2013, 8 months after reading The Slight Edge, I started writing my first book.
At that time I had already been able to talk to strangers on a regular basis. I met a new friend that way. We are still friends.
Consistency and the compound effect
My results got only better with time. In January 2014, I released my 5th book and it became my first bestseller.
In July 2014, we bought a house. That hadn’t even been on our radar two years ago.
I got a small salary raise.
I kept my bodyweight in the intended range of 138–144 lbs.
I got sick only twice since July 2013.
I met new friends online, all over the world.
It’s over 5 years since I read “The Slight Edge.”
I passed a few professional exams and got a few certificates. In 2015, I changed my day job. The new one is 35% better paid. Despite this, my book royalties in the last couple of months significantly exceeded my salary.
Our income almost doubled. My saving ratio was below 2-digits last time in April 2015.
I became a digital coach. This January, I obtained a certificate. Last month, my coaching income was about 20% of my salary.
I beat over 180 personal fitness records.
Success is a few simple disciplines repeated over time
I can barely wrap my mind around how much I accomplished in the last 5 years.
I look forward to the future with anticipation. I have no idea where my simple disciplines will lead me to in the next 5 years.
P.S. The Slight Edge’s message captured in a single chart:
and self-published author writing about how to ‘expand beyond your limits’ so you can regain control over your life (based on my personal experience).