The One Thing That Will Supercharge Your Teaching and Your Life
Welcome to the first-ever book review on AHT.com. My aim is simple: I review the best books and resources from all corners of the publishing kingdom to help you be a better teacher.
As well as teaching pedagogy, I will be drawing from the worlds of psychology, sales, self-help, storytelling and even performance art to help you become the Gal Godot/Jason Stratham of your classroom.
To kick off this series, I am going to review my personal favourite self-help book of all time called “The Slight Edge” by American businessman and entrepreneur Jeff Olson.
The concept in this text helped me to be healthier, wealthier and write the AHT book that you have got in hands - yes please buy the book! 😊
In this week’s blogpost you will learn:
What the Slight Edge is and how it can lead you to teaching mastery and life success.
Why most diets, businesses and marriages fail and how that relates to teaching.
And most importantly:
A practical example of how the Slight Edge works and how to teach it to your students.
What is the ‘Slight Edge?’
Jeff Olson’s book charts his story from a self-confessed ‘beach bum’ living out of his death-trap banger to becoming a multimillionaire. Olson life turned for the better when he started applying the eponymous principle.
So what is The Slight Edge? This concept is very simple: Every time you make a decision or do an action, big or small, you activate this invisible force that determines your destiny.
If you practice simple disciplines designed to make your better every day, then eventually down the line, they will compound into positive life outcomes. If you eat enough low-fat food you will lose weight. Invest your money wisely, you will eventually become wealthy. You get the idea.
However, the Slight Edge can cut both ways.
But if you consistently make simple errors in your daily routines, and don't check them, they will compound into life disaster and misery. You smoke too much, you eventually get sick. Spend all your money, you will eventually become bankrupt. Neglect your partner, you will break up. Ouch.
Olsen believed that if you looked at the most successful people in the world in terms of health, wealth, happiness and fulfilment, you will see that their success was built off simple, seemingly innocent daily disciplines that have been running for a very long time.
But he believed these people only made up 5% of the population.
The 95% go the other direction because they don't understand how it works.
Why Most Diets Fail
Olson believes that the reason why many diets are abandoned, businesses fail, relationships gradually erode is that it’s not that the actions are wrong but it’s this crazy ‘Hollywood’ belief of instant results/massive action that stops ‘The Slight Edge’ from kicking in.
We live in a fast world and we now take for granted the speed in which we can make good outcomes occur.
We live in a society that believes in instant success — reality shows now can take ordinary people and within the space of weeks, make them rich and famous.
Instead of going to the library to find out about things, we have all the World’s knowledge at our fingertips through our smartphones. We no longer have deep knowledge but broad knowledge that will help us win the pub quiz.
We have near-instant communication where we can video-chat with someone on the other side of the planet with little to no delay so it’s no wonder that our students now think that getting anything worth having should be instant too!
The problem with humans, in general, is that we are so focused on seeing the massive results that we feel that our small actions are totally insignificant.
But when we look at our habits over weeks, months, years and decades, only then do we have the foresight to see where our habits and decisions lead us to.
In our assessment obsessed, data-driven culture it's so easy to want instant results. We want our students to be A* level pupils within two PowerPoint presentations. We want our worst behaved kids to listen to us at the click of our fingers.
But life doesn't work that way. Great things take time. That's it.
There are no such things as instant apple trees. You must plant the seeds, water the ground, nurture the saplings and then you can get the apples.
The Slight Edge’s message is very simple: small, measurable but consistent steps lead to huge results and this is something that you must drill into all the students that you teach.
The Slight Edge in Action
In one of my Curriculum Support lessons, I once had a Year 11 student that struggled to read books because he felt that didn’t have time to read anything.
The poor lad struggled with his English and believed that he was destined to fail when he took the exam in the Summer next year. When he came to me seeking advice, I told him that the easiest way to improve his English is to read more books.
He told me he didn't have the time and then I explained the Slight Edge to him.
I challenged him and said that if he read for a mere fifteen minutes a day — which was how long the bus ride home would take, that within a year, he could read ten novels.
He didn’t believe me so I broke down the Maths to him:
Let’s say we take out all the major holidays like Christmas, Easter and Bank Holidays and out of a 365 day year, he reads for only 340 days.
Also, let’s assume the average novel is around 400 pages long and has 300 words a page. The average adult reads about 300-350 words per minute but because he wasn’t a confident reader we said that he could read 250 words a minute. Here’s how we got that ten novel figure:
400 pages x 300 words = 120,000 words in the whole book.
120,000 words in the whole book/250 words he reads per minute = 480 minutes to read the whole thing
480 minutes to read the whole book/60 minutes = 8 hours to read an average novel
15 minutes a day x 340 days = 5100 minutes of reading in the whole year excluding holidays
5100 minutes/60 minutes = 85 hours of reading in the year
So 85 hours of reading in the year/8 hours it takes to read an average novel = 10.5 novels in the year (which I rounded down because of sick days etc).
That tiny habit of reading on his way back from school could produce that huge result to him pass his English exam.
Tell your students that every single decision that they make matters and it will bear fruit one day. If they are struggling with a particular task, ask them to break it done into tiny, doable chunks.
Going forward slowly is much better standing still. The Slight Edge can help you keep perspective - it may be hard in the moment, but with enough time and patience, you will get the results.
This book is as much about giving you that philosophy as it is about giving you the action steps. What makes this book so great is it’s simplicity – there are several ‘aha’ moments in the text that changed my life. The Slight Edge was helped to write a 68,000-word book - which is 3.5 times longer than my University dissertation!
The Slight Edge is what enables me to write this blog, week in and week out.
Now the Slight Edge can help you.
Although I have adapted it to teaching, the ‘Slight Edge’ can be adapted to any area in your life whether it is your health, your finances or your career.
This is even perhaps more critical to our students.
In our post-COVID19, post-George Floyd society, our young people are facing challenges that would make the toughest of us crumble.
More than ever we need to teach our children more than algebra and how many wives Henry VIII had. We have to teach them how to acquire skills quickly, critical thinking and how to have grit and determination.
We have to be more than information dispensers, but emotional coaches that will shine a light on this treacherous path called Life.
The Slight Edge will be an invaluable tool in your toolbox and I wholeheartedly recommend that you buy this book and give it a sacred place on your bookshelf.
It's a thumbs up from me.
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It takes less than 20 seconds. Just do it.
Karl from actionheroteacher.com