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,
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
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