The Legend of Milo of Croton

I’m sure you’ve heard the Ancient Greek legend, right? Milo of Croton, the most remarkable athlete and all-around badass of all time? Some say his incredible story is a myth, some have named their children after the infamous Milo because the legend is so amazing they have to believe it.  Either way, there are some great parallels we can draw from the life of Milo of Croton, true or not.

Where the Story Starts 

Imagine this setting: southern Greece, 6th century BC.   Perhaps the most brilliant athletes in the history of mankind exist at this time, displaying incredible acts of strength, grace, and speed.  In those days, the yearly Olympia athletics festival was said to have some of the greatest athletes to have ever lived participate in a number of athletic events.  The crazy part is that during this time, the best athletes were said to have come from the city of Croton.  Insert the legend of Milo, a country boy, who was the son of Diotimus, a famous philosopher in the area is born.  As a young boy, Milo would carry his newborn dairy calf over his shoulders every day from barn to milking station.  Of course, the distance is unknown, but depending on who tells you the story, Milo would carry this calf anywhere from 100 meters to over a mile– you decide what to believe! Either way, as the calf matured into a full grown cow, Milo continued to carry the cow over his shoulders, maturing himself, getting stronger, increasing endurance, and gaining lean muscle mass.  It’s also said that Milo’s daily nutrition consisted of 20lbs of animal meat, 10lbs of bread, and over 10 pints of wine and/or milk (the speculation is either/or) to help him grow big and strong.  Oh and the calf he had been carrying every day and milking?  He’d slaughter it and eat it all in one sitting as a ceremonial victory of raising a mature, nutritious, healthy cow– something that couldn’t have been easy back in those times.  Additionally, Milo was a world champion wrestler– the most popular sport during that time.  In fact, he held the title of “Periodonikes” which is essentially a grand slam winner of all events at the yearly Olympia athletic festival.  Not only was Milo an incredible strong man and athlete, he was also a military general that lead an army of 100,000 troops up against an army of 300,000 troops, and won.  Not only did they win the battle, but he was at the front of the army, leading the way, kicking ass and taking names.  Sadly, every story has an ending and Milo was killed by a pack of wolves.  The story has it that Milo came upon a massive tree that had a split down the middle of it (probably from lightning) and he attempted to rip the tree in half to display how incredibly strong he was (ironically, he was alone).  Milo is said to have been close to splitting it, but at the last second, the two sides came back and trapped his hands.  Moments later, a pack of wolves came along and ate Milo alive, killing the hero that Greek once knew as Milo of Croton.

What Are We Even Talking About? 

I love this story, mostly because of my weird obsession with Greek mythology.  Whether the story(s) are true or complete myths is totally up in the air.  I’m someone who needs actual evidence of nearly anything for me to buy into it, but this stuff is just too… sexy and exciting and incredible for me to not believe it! Therefore, I ignorantly believe that these events happened.  That being said, I’m also someone who looks for the lesson or meaning behind anything. regardless of validity.  The story of Milo of Croton provides justification not only for incredible discipline and hard work, but also scientific evidence of progressive overload and finally, evidence of ego being the ultimate downfall of anyone.  So here we go…


Milo not only developed discipline from an early age, but as he grew, his discipline was hardened by… you guessed it: continuing to practice discipline!  This is a common downfall of society as a whole.  Think about New Years Resolutions.  You see all these people post or talk about how they are going to change their lives this year or they are finally going to lose that excess 70 pounds they have or read 10 books that year and what happens? A few weeks go by, life happens, things get hard and what they originally set out to do falls apart generally by the end of January, let alone the entire year.  A lack of discipline completely altered your “resolution” and you’re out of the game.  Milo knew that with discipline, carrying the calf every day, not skipping Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday because he wasn’t feeling it, that eventually he would become stronger, grow a mature calf, and enhance his chances of winning wrestling matches and be a better military general.  He had set-in-stone reasons for his disciplines– and they set him free.

Progressive Overload

If you aren’t aware of the term progressive overload, it’s literally exactly how it sounds– over the course of time, you increase your work load, and thus, you get stronger or better.  We could go on for hours about the science behind all of this and get extremely technical but look at it simply: Milo got stronger because every day, the calf grew.  When the calf grew, the calf got heavier and eventually grew into a cow and when the cow continued to grow and be fed and sustain healthy living environments, the cow became mature and when the cow became mature, it helped Milo become stronger and stronger each day. The same goes for business, relationships, fitness, whatever you want to point at.  You increase your workload over time, you get stronger.  Think about it: you grow your network of people, the more people you have to turn to when you need help or need a reference or a partner.  You open up more in a relationship and you’re honest and provide and give to the other person, your relationship becomes stronger.  You increase your weight on the bar in the gym every session and you’ll become stronger.  It’s simple physics and it applies to everything.

Ego is (and always will be) the Enemy

To Milo’s credit, he possessed a level of confidence that I can’t even imagine having.  However, there is a difference between confidence and sheer arrogance.  Imagine being the most beloved and/or best athlete in the world in your time.  Heck, anyone would develop some type of ego right?  You begin to believe you’re invincible and above everyone and everything, larger than life.  Effective leaders, however, bring a sort of humble, confident disposition about them to the table don’t they? Think about some of the greatest leaders of all time– Tony Robbins, Martin Luther King Jr., Greg Popovich, Tom Brady, etc.  The list can go on forever.  The best leaders and those who will leave the greatest legacy will display characteristics of a humble, empathetic, infectious personality, etc. qualities that make people say, “yep, I want to go with THAT guy/girl.”  Milo, although incredibly talented did not possess these characteristics.  Think about it: he was so egotistical that he tried to tear apart a tree which eventually got him eaten alive.


Don’t get me wrong, I still a believe in Milo of Croton. I can understand those who don’t– it’s honestly a pretty far stretch of the imagination to actually believe someone carried a fully grown cow over his shoulder for years and years.  Nonetheless, Milo of Croton will forever be a great example of the average, small town boy growing up to be essentially a God, letting ego get to him, and it eventually catching up to him in cold, dark fashion.


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