The Slight Edge: Summary & Review

the slight edge

In The Slight Edge (2005) author Jeff Olson explains that the secret to becoming successful in life is repeating the small daily habits and actions, over and over. Then the compound effect will naturally carry you to success.

Bullet Summary

  • Every day, do the actions that will carry you to success
  • Do it consistently, day in and day out
  • Do it even when it’s boring, even when it would easier to do something else
  • Positive habits compound over time, but so do negative ones. If you compound negative habits, you go in the opposite direction of success

Full Summary

About the Author: there is not much information about Jeff Olson online, but what’s sure is that he is an American self-help speaker and author, and he is the founder and CEO of a cosmetics company.

The First Ingredient: Your Philosophy

Changing your philosophy in the slight edge mindset means changing how you see the daily, small things of your life.

Building to-do lists won’t do you any good unless you change your mindset about all those actions.
And the correct philosophy is this: everything matters. Especially the small daily actions and habits which, over time, either build up to make you a success, or build down to lead you to failure. 

The Choice: Up or Down. The Core of The Slight Edge

The core of the slight edge, and I quote Jeff Olson is this: 

Little productive actions, repeated consistently over time—add up to the difference between failure and success

Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

The Slight Edge will keep applying whether you want it or not, and it goes both ways. 
If you get into the habit of doing what will move you towards your goals, day in and day out, you will surely be successful.
If you let yourself go and you snooze, eat junk food, and waste time, it will lead you in the opposite direction of your dreams.

Master The Mundane

Here is why you need to master the mundane:

  1. Little daily actions are easy to do, but also easy not to do
  2. Results are invisible (in the beginning)
  3. Little actions seem insignificant (but they add up)

The small daily actions won’t always be exciting. Sometimes they will be boring. And sometimes they might even be hard.
And they take time.
You will not get to see results right away. And that’s exactly why most people don’t do them

Mastering the slight edge means to learn mastering the daily and mundane. You don’t start from the top right away, you need to get there, and getting there means repeating small little actions day after day.

Don’t Fall For The Quantum Leap Mentality

People with a “jackpot” mentality don’t apply the slight for exactly the reasons we mentioned above: it’s easy not to do, it takes time and in the beginning results are unnoticeable.

It won’t make no difference today whether I write this post or snooze. It won’t make a difference whether I gorge at McDonald or I eat my usual healthy dinner.
But in the long run, you bet it does make a difference.

People who don’t understand the slight edge pursue the big break, the quantum leap.
They seek opportunities to make one million today. Basically, most people chase lottery tickets that rarely yield the results they want -and often yield the opposite results-.

Slight edge people do get to experience quantum leaps. But only after they have been working at it for a long time.
Basically, when you apply the slight edge your success will be in “brewing” mode for a while before it eventually explode -same concept Peter Diamandis talks about in Bold for diffusion of disruptive technologies-.

Start With a Penny

The Slight Edge advocates starting.

Yes, learning is important.
But action goes hand in hand with learning and reading.

The key to starting on your road to success is starting. No matter what you start with, you gotta start.

Two Life Paths: Threats or Possibilities

Successful people believe in the future and in a world of possibilities. They believe they can change their life.
Unsuccessful people live life blaming others and they never take responsibility for their life.

Successful people shoulder a responsibility to make others successful. 

Use Mentors

To shorten your learning curve Jeff Olson recommends you pick a mentor. A mentor should be someone who has already done what you want to achieve. 
Make sure that he is a good role model that you can emulate. 

Also read:

The 7 Slight Edge Principles (Habits)

Here are five positive and powerful slight edge habits:

  1. Show up
  2. Show consistently
  3. Cultivate a positive outlook (see the glass half full)
  4. Commit yourself for the long haul (10.000 hours rule)
  5. Cultivate burning desire backed by faith that you will make it
  6. Pay the price (sometimes you gotta give up something)
  7. Practice integrity (do the right thing even when nobody’s watching)
the slight edge

What to Read After The Slight Edge

One of the core principles of the slight edge is that of continuous growth and improvement. 

I especially loved the story of Olson speaking to a shoe-shiner who dreamed of sending her daughter to university but she couldn’t afford it. She was an avid reader, but she only read novels.
And Olson wonders “what if she had read good self-development books instead?”
I couldn’t agree more.

Jeff Olson quotes and recommends many books, including:

Real-Life Applications

The whole concept of the slight edge is transformative and something you should definitely apply to your life. 
There were a few more gold nuggets I loved though, including:

Make Happiness a Priority
The model that most people follow, such as “achieve the result and then be happy” has been proven over and over not to work.
Do the opposite instead: make happiness a priority which, in turn, will make it much more likely that you will also achieve your goals.
Slight edge + happiness = success.


Here are a few great quotes I loved:

How long will it take? Chances are it will take longer than you want it to—and that when the time arrives, you’ll be astonished at how quick it seemed.

Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

The Slight Edge is all about living in the moment

Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

Be happy and the reason will appear

Robert Breault


I think The Slight Edge contains a simple, yet foundational truth for a successful life, so take these cons as small pebbles in an otherwise great text.

  • Keeps Building Up Suspense

The concepts in The Slight Edge are transformative, yet simple. But the author didn’t simply deliver them in a straightforward fashion: he builds up to them and creates suspense. It’s a good idea to make them more memorable, and sometimes it worked wonders. But some others sometimes I thought it was too much.

  • The Compound Effect Applied to Investment is Risky

The compound effect is a truth of life and it’s important.

However, I personally can’t stomach anymore the compound effect applied to financial investment. One because it’s everywhere, and second because it’s not true.

Just think about it: does it makes sense that something will keep on growing forever? How can you rest assured the stock market will keep on growing from now until when you retired? You can’t! So the “compound effect” presented as the safest way to become a millionaire is built on a lie (also read: Fooled by Randomness and The Millionaire Fastlane)

  • Sometimes Statistically Superficial

This is nitpicking, but you know guys I’m a highly critical reviewer. 

The author says that by analyzing the words in tweet messages they could predict health. But the doctor who introduced the study didn’t predict overall health, he only measured the correlation with one single medical ailment. 

I’ll give you one example to show you how these correlations can be meaningless: jogging is likely to be correlated with a higher incidence of knee injuries, sprayed ankles, and dog bites. Does it mean jogging is unhealthy? Of course not.
Also read: How to Lie With Statistics

  • The Legacy Argument

I’m really not a big fan of legacy. I feel it comes from an unhealthy place. It contains a lot of entitlement mentality with the idea of “being remembered”, which sounds rather egocentric to me.
The truth is that, on a long enough timeline, nobody will be remembered. And that’s fine.

  • Sometimes Repetitive

The book could have been much shorter. Especially if you read a lot of self-development texts much of the information won’t be new to you.
But repetition can also help people internalize the message better, so this one is very personal.


 The Slight Edge goes at the core of success. Both in terms of achieving material success and an happier, more meaningful life.
That’s all the “pros” you need :).


The Slight Edge is an excellent, excellent book.

If you want to be successful, the slight edge is your formula.

It is in many ways similar in content to The Compound Effect, and both are excellent books because they go at the core of what it takes to be successful.

Check the best books collection or get the book on Amazon

Scroll to Top