The Slight Edge, A Summary

Sun, Sep 20, 2020 13-minute read

The Slight Edge in my Words

Do the thing, and you shall have the power.

The Slight Edge is a fantastic book that explains the power of continual small improvements that compound overtime. These 1% gains each day go on to make you appear to be an overnight success. I have experienced this as a self taught software developer.

To bystanders and friends my journey appears as though I learned everything I know about software development during my university degree (which was in arts, not science). Sadly, this train of thought is because people don’t see the slight edge at work - I spent everynight learning and practicing my craft to suddenly become an overnight success.

I have written this as a homage to one of my top five favourite and most profound books.

Two takeaways are:

  • You have complete control over the direction that the rest of your life takes.
  • “This is Football” or why we overcomplicate everything.


Two Mindsets

Entitled: “What have you done for me lately”, “Pay me more and I’ll work harder”

Value-driven: “What can I do to help you?”, “I’ll work harder, and then I expect you’ll pay me more”

  • The Water Hyacinth:

    • A story of the plant that doubles itself each day - starting at a single cell.
    • It takes many days of seemingly no growth before it compounds monumentally to eventually over grow the entire lily pond
    • This story demonstrates that the little changes compounded over time aren’t noticed, they are so slight that its not noticed for a long period. When it is noticed the onlookers think “it happened overnight” which it surely did not!
  • The Millionaires Sons:

    • Another story, this time about two boys each given a choice; receive 1 million dollars 30 days after their fathers death, or get 1 penny but have its value double everyday for 30 days.
    • 1 penny compounded each day for 30 days is 10 million dollars…

“It’s never too late to start” & “It’s always too late to wait”

  • Parkinson’s Law states:
    • “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
  • Spare a thought for what junk you put in your body:
    • It’s not a trash can
    • “Many of us are literally digging our graves with our teeth.”

Consistently repeated daily actions + time = unconquerable results


Happiness is more important to our success than we realise. These are some “happy habits”:

  1. Each morning, write down three things you are grateful for:
  • Not the same three; new ones that force you to think of new tings to be grateful for.
  1. Journal for two minutes each day about something positive:
  • Write down this positive moment in great detail - this causes the brain to relive that happy experience, doubling the positive impact. I also find it gives me time to reflect, and think back on my day often seeing many moments worth writing about.
  1. Mediate daily
  • Just stop and do nothing for two minutes. Breathe in and out letting it all wash over you. Relax your body from bottom to top through visualisations such as “making your legs concrete and heavy”.
  1. Do one random act of kindness each day
  • Praise someone, or thank them when it is not expected. Offer time, or assistance when no one expects it.
  1. Exercise for 15 minutes daily
  • Simple cardio; a brisk walk, or hardcore session, its this stimulation for the body that triggers a strong antidepressant response. 15 minutes is 1% of your day; you have the time!
  1. Read at least ten pages of a good book each day!

This list is only 30 minutes of each day but the key is not to over commit and start doing it all. Begin slowly, developing that slight edge by creating lifelong habits. Once you habitualise one, add another. This is a lifelong journey.

Are You Your Own Cause?

  • The upper half take full responsibility for their actions. They view all forces that brought them to this point, to be under their control - parents, teachers, friends, family, and so on. These influencers are viewed through the lens of gratitude and appreciation, not blame. They view themselves as the cause of what comes next in their life, no matter whether those influences have been negative or positive.
  • Negative people dwell on the past and positive, successful people look to their future. Your past can bring you down, its what people on the failure curve look at - I failed at this, so and so did this to me, I was X at school. People on the success curve don’t shun the past, they use it as a tool to shape their future for the better. Failure curvers use their past as weapon of self-flagellation and to hurt those around them.

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  • Honestly look at your your level of happiness; do you take the time to see things in a postive light, rather than a negative? Are you savouring the moment, and expressing your appreciation of others? Are you engaged in activies you want to do, rather than those you feel you have to do?

Problem Solving

The size of the problem determines the size of the person.

You can quickly determine the limitations of someone’s life by the size of the problems getting them down. But you can equally determine the impact a person’s life has by the size of the problems they solve.

If the biggest problems you are solving is should I put the bread, or cans into the shopping bag first? Then that is the level of your problem solving, and that level will be commensurate with your income.

  • A problem is just a gap between point A and point B; an open space to be filled.
  • When there is a gap - a problem - it will create tension. The tension can be overcome in only two ways:
    • We either move headlong into the tension to slowly overcome the gap and solve the problem (as the top 95% do), or we remove the tension by extracting ourselves from the problem - in a detrimental to our future way.
    • Doing nothing, is a form of tension relief as time marches on the problems will erode but they will likely erode negatively. For instance, if you want to make exercise a habit, there will be a tension each time you want to train. By sleeping in, or missing that session today you have removed todays tension - its only one day! But overtime, you have trained less, are more habitually likely to skip sessions and therefore be highly likely to not be that person you wanted to be. The tension is gone but the problem leading you to wanting to start exercising still remains.

Master the Slight Edge

“Be not afraid of moving slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” - Chinese proverb

  • Momentum preveils:
    • Everything has an optimal rate of growth; never do long standing things have a high rate of growth that can maintain that rate over a long period. We harness gradual and seemingly inconsequential growth through the small and insignificant habits done everyday over years.
  • Completion:
    • A lack of completion drains us; all the little things we still have to do, all compound to suck our will and life from us. The only way to tame this beast is to actively address as many of these problems to make the list as small as possible.
  • Reflect, and do so in public:
    • do not hide your actions; catch yourself doing something right.
    • Be open with the public about what you are doing; let the masses hold you to account, and be “shocked” about your sudden “sudden” overnight success.
    • Holding the past you to account serves as a reminder that you are growing - all we need is the be better than our past self.

Three “you’s”

“Three words. Exercise and books.” - /u/ryans01

We have three “you’s”; past, present and future. And this ain’t from the slight edge but sums up a lot of it and is ghetto gospel for the youth. Straight from ryans01:

La deuxieme regle - yeah i learnt french. its a canadian thing. please excuse the lack of accent graves, but lemme get into rule number 2. BE GRATEFUL TO THE 3 YOU’S. Uh what? 3 me’s? That sounds like mumbo jumbo bullshit. News flash, there are three you’s homeslice. There’s the past you, the present you, and the future you. If you wanna love someone and have someone love you back, you gotta learn to love yourself, and the 3 you’s are the key. Be GRATEFUL to the past you for the positive things you’ve done. And do favours for the future you like you would for your best bro. Feeling like shit today? Stop a second, think of a good decision you made yesterday. Salad and tuna instead of Big Mac? THANK YOU YOUNGER ME. Was yesterday a nonzero day because you wrote 200 words (hey, that’s all you could muster)? THANK YOU YOUNGER ME. Saved up some coin over time to buy that sweet thing you wanted? THANK YOU. Second part of the 3 me’s is you gotta do your future self a favour, just like you would for your best fucking friend (no best friend? you do now. You got 2. It’s future and past you). Tired as hell and can’t get off reddit/videogames/interwebs? fuck you present self, this one’s for future me, i’m gonna rock out p90x Ab Ripper X for 17 minutes. I’m doing this one for future me. Alarm clock goes off and bed is too comfy? fuck you present self, this one’s for my best friend, the future me. I’m up and going for a 5 km run (or 25 meter run, it’s gotta be non zero). MAKE SURE YOU THANK YOUR OLD SELF for rocking out at the end of every.single.thing. that makes your life better. The cycle of doing something for someone else (future you) and thanking someone for the good in your life (past you) is key to building gratitude and productivity. Do not doubt me. Over time you should spread the gratitude to others who help you on your path.

Cultivating the Slight Edge

Your Philosophy => Your Attitude, Actions, Results => Your Life

Its habits and philosophy done repeatedly, over time that will make you the person you want to be.

  • Habits come from daily activities compounded over time. Those activities are choices you make in the moment (get out of bed early, read rather than scroll your socials). Your choices come from habits of thought, which come from your thinking, which are a representation of how you view the world and your place in it - this is your philosophy.
  • In other words, its your everyday habits and beliefs that will shape who you are in the future. Simple little actions will make the difference over the long history of your life.

Habit 1: Show up

  • Most people are struck down with hesitation, the cornerstone of mediocrity.
  • The greatest achievers when asked how they did it often say something to the effect of: I just decided to do it
  • do the thing, and you shall have the power

Habit 2: Be Consistent

  • 80 percent of success is showing up every day
  • Do the work, every day and you will have beaten more than 50% of the competition

Habit 3: Have a Positive Outlook

  • People who see the glass more than half full in every circumstance are:
    • more successful,
    • happier,
    • more creative,
    • live longer,
    • make more money,
    • have better immune response,
    • less heart disease and strokes,
    • have better, and longer lasting relationships, and
    • are more successful in their careers.

Does this mean you have to jubilantly happy all the time? No, we all have bad days. But its how we manage those. When feeling blue, take time to reflect on your blessings; what you’ve achieved, your family and friends, your health and so.

Will this take you out of your funk immediately? Probably not, and that’s when the importance of understanding contrast is powerful.


  • How can I know love, if I’ve never felt loss,
  • I cannot understand what good feels like, if I have never felt bad,
  • Without feeling the funk, I can never know what happiness is,
  • Life is ebb and flow - we must experience both spectrum’s to appreciate the side we want to live on.

Habit 4: Be Committed to the Long Haul

  • It takes a long time to grow and old friend
  • Plant, cultivate, harvest - the comma between cultivate and harvest often represents a looooooong period of time.
  • 10,000 hours doesn’t happen in a weekend - it takes years of sustained, and prudent effort to achieve the success we dream of. Commit to it.

Habit 5: Cultivate a Burning Desire Backed by Faith

  • No, not religious faith; faith in your self!
  • Desire by itself is a weak binding by itself - it is not the sole marker, that desire must come with a burning desire - that which keeps you up at night and gets you out of bed early in the morning.
  • desire backed by faith is the deep, passionate wanting to get somewhere and knowing - not wanting or wishing, but knowing that you will get there.
  • There will be problems encountered along this path but remember: you can determine the size of a person by the size of the problems they overcome.
  • A burning desire is what helps you confront them, rather than turning an running away.

Habit 6: Be Willing to Pay the Price

  • We can only do so much in our life, some times we must make a choice between greatness and pleasure.
  • Very few billionaires are playing in the NHL, or whatever sport you follow - they made a sacrifice in one area, to be great in another.
  • Whatever price you pay, there’s a bigger price to pay for not doing it than there is for the price of doing it.
  • The price of neglect is higher than the price of discipline!

Habit 7: Practice Slight Edge Integrity

  • Be committed to doing, even when no one is watching.
  • Its the choices you make when you’re tired, or broke, or in a funk that define whether or not you have the integrity of the slight edge.
  • You need to do what you set out to do, every day even when no one could ever find out that you didn’t do it because someone will always know the truth; you.

How to Achieve a Goal

  1. Write it down: give it a what and a when.
  2. Look at it everyday: keep it in your face; soak your subconscious in it - auto-suggestion.
  3. Start with a plan: make the plan simple. The plan won’t get you there, but it will get you started.


  1. Do one small thing to advance yourself every day in key areas of your life - health, happiness, career, finances, impact, personal development
  2. Review these actions daily, and track them. You can journal them, write them down on a post-it, share them with your friends or mentor. It makes you both consistent and aware of your growth.
  3. Spend high-quality time with men and women who have achieved goals similar to those which you desire. Model those people and surround yourself with like minded persons, after all you are the average of your five closest friends.
  • Successful people own their problems, they do not blame. They know the path between success and failure are razor thin, and that by doing nothing we automatically fall down the failure curve.
  • It is the “insignificant” actions done day in day out which set us apart between the 95% and the 5%.
  • The top 5% acquire three kinds of knowledge required to succeed:
    • Book and street smarts,
    • Learning through study and doing,
    • Catalysing and accelerating that knowledge by finding mentor and modelling their behaviour.
  • successful people always ask:
    • “Who am I spending time with? Are they people who best represent where I want to be headed?”
  • They surround themselves with, and develop strong relationships with positive people.
  • They read at least ten pages of a good book each day, or 15 minutes of high quality audio.
  • They work on their philosophy first because they know it creates their values, actions and results in life.

To understand the slight edge you must know:

  • The power of simple things,
  • The power of daily disciplines,
  • How the water hyacinth works, and how to use it,
  • When you are being offered the choice of wisdom,
  • How to put the slight edge to work for you, rather than against you.

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