One Persistent Step at a Time: What Jeff Olson’s Slight Edge Taught Me About Success

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There was a guy named Steve who dreamed of being in show business. Comedy was his specialty. But when he was younger, he didn’t stand out in any unique way. He couldn’t sing, and he had no rhythm. For Steve, the road to fame was a slow, uphill struggle.

Nonetheless, over time and through perseverance, Steve was able to get better at his craft. You wouldn’t call him an overnight success. It took a while, but eventually, Steve grew to become one of America’s most famous comedic icons.

This story about Steve Martin is one of many that appear in Jeff Olson’s book, The Slight Edge. Olson explains that focusing on incremental change, patience, and perseverance is the most consistent way to reach our goals and to make lasting changes in our lives. This book was a good dose of reality, and at the same time, a source of inspiration for me.

The Highlights

It’s ironic that the author of this how-to book tells us that another how-to book is the last thing we need to improve our lives. Olson doesn’t make any guarantees about what it takes to be successful. Success is rarely, if ever, an overnight phenomenon. In fact, we never see the struggle, pain, and failure that lies beneath the accomplishments of any well-known figure today.

Olson argues that it doesn’t take brilliance, intelligence, money, or anything special to move from survival to real success. Instead, it has to do with simple daily decisions, “little productive actions, repeated consistently over time—[that] add up to the difference between failure and success.”

Little actions that benefit us, such as brushing our teeth or writing for ten minutes each day, take us from failure to survival. They can also move us from survival to success–if we simply decide to keep doing them. Even if we suffer setbacks along the way, doing those little actions over and over will yield results over time.

The Slight Edge goes into greater detail about why some people achieve success and others don’t. The books also explains how we can reap the rewards that come from simple daily activities, and that we already have the necessary tools to do it.

Image by Donald Tong at

The Take-Away

This book’s most significant impact on me comes from a direct quotation that is now my personal mantra:

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

The operative word is progressive, meaning that we can achieve what we want by embracing the “triumph of the mundane.” Little decisions that we make one after the other will add up to success (or failure) in the long run.

The Final Verdict

In light of my positive review, I have a few criticisms. For example, the vast majority of Olson’s fables and anecdotes are about famous men. I kept hoping he would share stories about influential women. At least when he includes success stories from his readers, many of them comes from women.

In addition, Olson discusses happiness as an experience we all desire and deserve, but he never clearly defines the concept. He talks more about what happiness isn’t, and he treats the term happiness as a verb by implying that happiness is the realization of happiness. This logic is circular at best.

Despite its limitations, The Slight Edge is a fun and motivating read. It reminds us that even when you think you see others having breakaway moment of success, it doesn’t happen out of the blue. That success is likely the result of consistent, seemingly mundane actions that help–not harm–over time.

Image by Pixabay at

Tell us if you’ve read The Slight Edge or anything else by Jeff Olson. Please leave a comment and don’t forget to “like” this post.

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