I’ve read a decent amount of books on personal development/self-growth, but by far the best title I’ve come across to date is: The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success.
I’ll hopefully dedicate an entire post to Jeff Olson’s life-changing philosophies and simple wisdoms at a later date, but for right now I’ll just try and sum it up in a nutshell.
Basically, he teaches you to believe that every decision you make in life either drives you towards success, or pushes you down towards failure: There is no middle-ground, no neutral.
Even though I’ve not yet finished the book, it’s already made a dramatic impact on my life, and there is one such example which came about today that I want to share with everyone.
One of my biggest vices is sports betting. I don’t want to get into it too much, but everything you’ve heard about gambling ruining lives, it’s all true. Now, in my recent quest for self-development, I’ve managed to keep the gambling demons at bay, but I was extremely close to relapsing earlier today. As in, all I had to do was click ‘Submit.’ Credit card info was all entered. But for some reason I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to authorize the deposit. The principles I learned from reading The Slight Edge kept pulling at me.
I rationalized it in many different ways, believe me. ‘It’s only $20.’ ‘You deserve it, you haven’t gone out this week.’ ‘C’mon, man, it’s a guaranteed winner!’ (this the kind of nonsense you tell yourself by the way when you become a gambler).
I caught myself, closed all my Chrome windows and breathed deeply. Holy shit, that was close. It’s not that I can’t afford to spend $20 on entertainment, but it’s the vicious cycle I get caught in every time I start wagering. The emotional roller coaster of gambling, especially on sports, will take a toll eventually on even the most composed man.
It’s been said that the gambler doesn’t do it for the thrill of winning, he does it for the thrill of almost losing. I can personally attest that this is pretty spot-on. It does feel good to win, but you know what, it hurts 10 times as bad when you lose. It’s the type of gut-wrenching, bleak despair that no man should have to feel.
Hmm…brings back some old memories. I’ll have to write about my gambling stories another time but let’s get on with it. So my ‘guaranteed’ winner was Chicago +9 @ Green Bay for tonight’s Sunday Night Football matchup. Thankful to have been freed of the quicksand of gambling, I sunk into my sofa to watch the game unfold. ‘Man, if the Bears win…..I’m gonna feel stupid. That’s an easy $20!’ Well, you know what, on the 1st possession the Bears punted and it was basically over after that. GB was up 21-0 in the 2nd quarter. So much for ‘free’ money as they like to call it.
As I watched Aaron Rodgers complete his 2nd touchdown pass of the night to Jordy Nelson putting the Packers up by 3 TDs, I realized that I had escaped by the hair of my chin a possible string of downtrending events leading towards failure and not success.
If I had put $20 on the game and watched the Packers slam the Bears who knows what could of happened. I probably would have deposited more money and bet on the 2nd half, and wasted my Sunday evening yelling at the TV. And I certainly would not have felt good enough to go out to the park and go practice throwing a football, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – which I allowed myself to go do because I wasn’t sucked into the game by putting money on it (you can’t do anything when you are betting on a televised game except watch it, or update the score on your phone every 2 seconds, this is what I like to call the ‘disease of sports gambling’).
As I played under the lights at the park, feeling like I was 10 years old again, I saw for the first time The Slight Edge at work. Not only did I escape a huge push towards eventual failure in life by avoiding depositing into my betting account, I made a giant leap towards realizing one of my life goals (playing flag football recreationally at a high level) – I stepped onto the upward path of success . If just one decision can make such a radical swing in someone’s life, imagine if you do that every day, for every decision in your life, and there you have The Slight Edge in full force.