A note from Rach Smith's digital garden

Thoughts on the Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

Added: March 26, 2021

Tags: books productivity

The Slight Edge book cover

Lately I’ve been rereading some books that I remember impacting me in 2016. The year I turned 30, in a very cliche move, I discovered the self improvement/development genre. I picked up The Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which may have been the most profound non-fiction book I’ve read. It wasn’t so much that the book taught me how to be tidy, but it taught me how to adopt a growth mindset. All my life I thought I was this “messy person”, and I would always be that way. I realised I could change the stories I believed about myself and improve my life.

And so I began devouring the self-improvement genre. I think The Slight Edge may have been in the first 10 books I read, and I remember really taking the message to heart.

After a 2021 re-read the key point of the Slight Edge still resonates: the small actions we take every day can compound to profoundly positive change in our lives over the longer term. However, I think the author makes the point by the end of the first three chapters and you don’t need to read the rest of it. As is with so many self-improvement books, it would probably be just as effective as a blog post or brochure, and the rest is just filler.

A thing that really stood out to me this time, was the cringey language about “the 5% of people who do” and the “95% of people who don’t” live this way. Self improvement authors love to separate people in to the haves and have-nots using these percentages they pulled out of their butt to make you feel you are in some special top percentile of the population if you follow the book. I believe in improving myself by all means, but acting like you’re so much better and more successful than X% of people because you follow a recommendation from a book is gross and patronising way to think about your fellow humans.

Just out of interest I did some Googling of the author and found out that he is the CEO of an MLM Company. This made me want to do the digital equivalent of throw the book in the bin. While I was doing this reread, I felt like some parts of The Slight Edge wavered in to toxic positivity. Knowing this context around the author, that now makes sense.

The main takeaway of The Slight Edge holds weight, but I wouldn’t recommend you spend the money on buying it. You just need to internalise:

  • Small positive actions each day compound to create your ideal life much further down the road.
  • Often the things that matter are the things that are easy to do, but also easy not to do. For example, a daily walk outside is crucial for maintaining my mental health. Skipping a walk one morning might not seem like a big deal on the day. Skipping several days over time takes me to a place where I feel bad. Whereas consistently walking every day leads to better long term health.

For a book that has convinces you of the same key idea, but isn’t written by someone who makes money from exploiting stay-at-home mothers and vulverable populations, check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.


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