This above quote by Emerson sums up what the author, Jeff Olson, spends about 275 pages exploring in The Slight Edge: Turning simple disciplines into massive success.
There is no real need to read any more self help books according to Olson. We already know everything that we need in order to take the road on our journey to accomplish our goals. Fundamentally all we need to do is take four steps:
- Commit to a goal .
- Take a sustainable step towards that goal every single day.
- Continue taking the steps for a long period of time.
- Adjust your course as needed over time until you have reached your goal.
This applies to every aspect of your life. Rather than reading another book about a diet or watching another YouTube video on working out Olson says that you should commit to a goal that you can do and just do it everyday.
So maybe that means committing to jogging 15 minutes a day. If that is the goal then you would jog for 15 minutes a day for as long as you can and then adjust as needed - maybe over time you become stronger you can increase the speed or time spent running.
Follow this long enough and your ability in this area will grow and you will reach incredible heights in whatever it is that you have worked towards every day to achieve.
The challenge to this is the daily part. We tend to not like doing things daily. It is hard to build that habit because, while you are choosing something that is hypothetically easy to do, it is just as easy to not do.
On a personal note; I am committed to improving my writing and I aspire to write daily. But I have not yet succeeded in accomplishing that goal. Likewise I want to improve my artistic endeavors but I have stopped drawing.
I think part of the issue is that you can't choose to commit to daily action in multiple things at the same time. I intuitively know this but in practice I fail at this.
This failure is normal - Olson talks about how people tend to... in his words "as soon as we get away from failure and up past the line of survival, we quit doing the things that got us there".
I think about how much weight I've lost over the past five years (about 160 pounds) and I am proud of that. But I also think about how I have started to gain some of that weight back (about 20 pounds in the last year). I can blame the overabundance of free carbohydrates at work. I can blame the challenges of juggling the schedules of two little kids. I can blame the additional responsibilities I have taken on this past year like being PTA president. All of those factors are part of the challenge but the fundamental truth is that because I no longer felt a drive to continue to improve in my weight I inevitably began to creep up. Because if you aren't moving forward then you are sliding backwards just by the nature of entropy.
Fundamentally I think this book offers an important reminder - we already know everything we need to know in order to begin the things that we want to begin. We don't need to know more. We don't need to do more research to begin anything - we can figure out everything we need to know along the way as we adjust our plan.
Olson included a great story about how the Apollo rocket got to the moon. Apparently the trajectory was off 90% of the time but the gyroscope within the ship kept making micro adjustments along the way. Those tiny adjustments in degrees constantly throughout the course of the trip were enough for the module to safely land on the moon and return.
So I intend to start more things and just make sure that I commit to making daily steps forward towards these goals. I am going to keep my goals simple; write daily and commit to daily conscious eating with minimal carbs. If I can do those two things every single day I will consider my time well spent.
This is a book worth reading for the anecdotes and the personal stories within the book. But the fundamental concept is so crystal clear that you don't really need to read the book. You just need to commit to a plan, attack it every day and do so for a long time even though you will not see results as quickly as you'd like.
I NEED YOUR HELP! I'd love for my essays to reach more people. If you know anyone who might like these stories, please forward them this email!