The legend of Milo of Croton

In the 6th century BC, in a small town in Southern Italy called Croton, there lived a wrestler named Milo. A six-time Olympic wrestling champion¹, Milo was an incredible specimen known for his superhuman strength. The closest modern-day equivalent would be Aleksandr Karelin.

But here’s where the story gets interesting.

The legend goes something like this:

The secret to Milo’s superhuman strength, it is said, involves a newborn calf.

Seeing the small animal near his home, Milo decided to hoist it up onto his shoulders and carry it around his farm. To those who saw him, this was a strange and laughable sight.

But every day, Milo would wake up, lift the calf onto his shoulders, and carry it around his farm.

But here’s the thing…

Each morning, the calf weighs slightly more than it did the previous day. Looking into the research behind this (i.e. a quick Google search), I discovered that on average, a calf will gain anywhere from 0.55kg to 0.74kg per day².

Now, stop at this point and examine the story, because something important is happening here.

Let me illustrate it with another example…

The Dilemma of the Single Penny

Imagine that, right now, I were to reach out through the screen and give you one penny. Does that make you rich?³ No, absolutely not. You may even look at me quite strangely for handing you a penny.

But if I reached across and gave you another penny? And another penny again? And continued doing that infinitely?

At some point, you’d have to agree that my one penny has made you rich⁴.

Sure, the incremental gain of a penny isn’t what’s made wealthy, but the cumulative effect is such that, at a certain point, you have to admit that the one penny has now made you quite rich.

The Principle of Progressive Overload

That’s what we see with Milo’s story. It’s the progressive overload principle at play⁵. As the calf grows, so does Milo’s strength. 0.55kg isn’t much. You could easily pick up half a kilo without effort. But, at a certain point, that 0.55kg begins to push the human body to its limits, such that, four years into his training – by the time the calf had become a grown ox, Milo training regimen had made him superhuman.

This is clearly an interesting story (and especially for me because I am a wrestling enthusiast), but I’m not sure how much truth there is to the story. I will emphasize that it is a legend, and as such it’s probably exaggerated for effect. I could have made the same point in a logical manner, but stories are a much richer medium for persuasion⁶.

However, it’s the principle that I want you to take away:

  • That 5-minute workout may not feel significant today. But doing a small workout every day will have transformative effects on your body⁷.
  • Investing $100 into the stock exchange every month may seem insignificant. But by starting with zero savings, contributing only $100 monthly for 55 years at a conservative 6% market return, you can turn your total investment of $66k into $473,006⁸. You can play around with the compound interest calculator here (it’s fascinating).
  • Writing one sentence a day doesn’t seem worth it, but it can help you publish 12 bestsellers. When I started my writing journey, I struggled with writer’s block (a.k.a. procrastination). So I set a goal of writing one sentence per day. By itself, that’s insignificant. But over time, it helped me develop a consistent “writing habit”. If you’re interested in writing and publishing your own book, check out my free guide on the topic.

The point of all this is:

Small, daily actions by themselves – much like a single penny – don’t make a difference. But consistent action and improvement can be life-changing in ways that are hard for many of us to comprehend.

Thanks for reading,

Akash

p.s. What was most useful for you in this post? Which area of your life are you going to implement the “Milo-principle”?

p.p.s. If you haven’t already, please take part in the mindset training and research study here. Over 300 people have already participated in this free program, and I will be closing it down in the next couple of weeks: https://bit.ly/3BjeNwM


Notes:

¹ The legend of Milo of Croton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milo_of_Croton

² Daily calf weight gain: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286157326_Effect_of_weaning_calves_from_mother_at_different_ages_on_their_growth_and_milk_yield_of_mothers

³ How one penny tips the scale: http://www.spendyourvalues.com/blog/how-one-penny-tips-the-scales

⁴ I first came across this principle in the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear

⁵ Progressive overload: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/progressive-overload-the-concept-you-must-know-to-grow.html

⁶ Read about the power of stories in TED Talks Storytelling, by Akash Karia

⁷ Benefits of a daily workout: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout/

⁸ Compound interest calculator: https://www.investor.gov/financial-tools-calculators/calculators/compound-interest-calculator

3 Books That Changed My Life

Growing up, I rarely saw Dad without a book in his hands. Every night, I’d watch him settle his large frame into the sofa, pick up a Wilbur Smith novel and immerse himself into it for hours on end. As a young child, whenever Dad left a book lying around (which was often), I’d pick it up.

I would run my hands over the cover, flip through the yellow pages and imagine what fantastic stories were contained within. My imagination would run wild, trying to make sense of the story based on the cover alone (that magnificent lion on the cover – could it talk? What about that lightning bolt – what did that signify?).

It’s no wonder then, that I’ve become a voracious reader. Like my dad, you’ll rarely see me without a book in my hand (or, perhaps, a Kindle).

I’ll read when I’m on the bus or taxi. I’ll read when I’m waiting stuck in a queue. And at night, I’ll fall asleep listening to an audiobook.

I read between 15 to 54 books per year. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read, but I’d say it’s in the high hundreds (possibly even a thousand?). Yet, when I look back at all those books, I’ve forgotten most of what was in them. Many of them were enjoyable but did not make a significant impact on my life…

Except for these three. If you’re looking for your next read, here are my top 3 recommendations:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This is a hard book to put into words. It’s a heartbreaking story that details the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp; but at the same time, it’s an uplifting, beautiful tribute to human resilience, optimism and courage. Nothing I can say about this book will do it justice, so it’s best if you pick up a copy. It’s one of the most profound books you will ever read in your life.
  2. Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam. I admit – the title sounds kind of scammy. But it’s far from it. I only wish I’d read this book sooner. Stumbling into this book at a random bookstore in Singapore, and making a spontaneous decision to pick it up because the bookstore was about to close and I had nothing else to read, was one of the best decisions. Not reading this book earlier has literally cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income. Implementing the advice Andrew shares has put me and my family on the path to financial freedom.
  3. Mindset by Carol Dweck – I read this book when I was still a University student. Funny thing is, I’m sitting at the exact same Starbucks location in Hong Kong writing this email as I was when I first read this book. Mindset was the first book that exposed me to the science of how we can radically transform our lives just by changing our beliefs.

Since then, I’ve devoted my life to learning more about how the stories we tell ourselves (“mindsets”) influence every aspect of our lives.

Research Study Invitation

In fact, I’ve just put together a mindset training protocol in the form of a video. It’s the kind of training corporations hire me for. It’s part of a research study I’m conducting, and if you haven’t already taken part, you can do so by clicking this link.

If you decide to take part, you’ll be asked to answer a bunch of questions, and then watch a 10-minute training video. The survey is kind of long, but I promise you that it’s going to be worth your time (based on the great feedback I’ve received so far).

Here’s the link to take part in the study.