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The Slight Edge
I recently completed reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This is a not a book meant to unlock the mysteries of the universe nor answer your deepest burning questions, but its message is profound nonetheless. The simple premise of the book is that while we live in an instant gratification society, things do not work in quantum leaps, earth shattering breakthroughs, or getting lucky; at least not for the vast majority of us. If you want to be successful in life, it is the small, everyday steps that you take that will compound over time and turn into one giant leap. The trick is that these small steps are not only easy to do, but also easy not to do. It applies to all aspects of life – career progression, health and fitness, relationships, and yes, transitioning from the military to business.
For example, if you get out of bed tomorrow morning and lift weights, do a P90X workout, or go for a run, will you instantly improve your physical shape? Probably not. If you don’t do your workout, will you keel over tomorrow? Probably not. But, over time, these simple choices begin to manifest themselves into larger impacts on our life. By getting up every morning and getting that workout in, we may not look or feel great on day 1, or day 15, or even day 30. But, over time we will start to see the results and it is those small decisions to get up every day and workout that made it happen. If you don’t get up and work out, we may not see the effects for quite some time until one day our cholesterol levels are an all time high, we experience illness, or start wondering why climbing a flight of stairs is suddenly so difficult. Again, it’s these simple, seemingly innocuous decisions that make the difference over time and send you on the right path toward your ultimate goals.
Think about it with respect to your career. What simple decisions did you make today that will help you improve your performance at your job? Help your unit or organization? Propel you towards that next level? Did you compliment a teammate or subordinate on something they did well? Did you get up from your desk to walk around the plant and assist with quality control? Did you pick up a broom and help sweep the motor pool to personally demonstrate the right standard? Did you take the time to correct a behavior or did you overlook it and walk on by? Did you read those few pages of that professional book or article in bed before you turned out the lights? Did you spend those 30 mins practicing your significant accomplishment or methodology interview question answer? This is a very simple concept but it’s one we often overlook.
I had an engineer that worked for me several years ago and he never seemed to grasp this concept. He loved hitting the “home runs” with his clients. He lived for solving the big problems but was never able to see that the little things – the “singles” “doubles” and “triples”, were equally important to doing his job well and taking care of the customer’s needs. Even though he solved tough issues for them, they didn’t occur all that often and he let the little things that equally mattered fall through the cracks. As a result, the customers didn’t want to work with him and his career stagnated.
This point is further illustrated by the book, First Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. In the book, according to the Gallup poll, it takes at least five years to begin hitting your stride in a company and 10-15 years to make a dramatic impact. The bottom line is that real success takes time and its achieved by the simple, daily choices we make every day that will compound on themselves and lead to great accomplishments. The Slight Edge is a very easy but good read and I recommend it to anyone looking to improve themselves in any aspect of their lives.