the dose makes the poison

When crafting advice for others, remember your Paracelsus: dosis sola facit venenum. Latin a little rusty? "Only the dose makes the poison." It isn't enough to tell us what might help. As an expert, the least you can do is tell us the least we can do. Don't tell me what you did to get where you are. Tell me what I can get away with. Expertise is a force multiplier. Genuine experts help people do more with the same time, effort, and money.

Remember your Archimedes: Dôs moi pâ stô, kaì tàn gân kinásō. Greek a little rusty? "Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth." Give your readers a lever. Why am I listening if you won't make the job shorter or easier?

I signed up for an online course: "Achieving flexibility like mine couldn't be simpler," the admirably lithe and pliable instructor said in the first video. "Three simple stretches a day will do it." Only three? I thought to myself. Look out toes, here I come. "Here's the first stretch," he continued, bending at the waist. "Get yourself into this position. Good? Breathe. Relax. Nice. Now, hold this stretch for the rest of your natural life."

OK, I exaggerate—slightly—but this is the rub. If you're wondering why you haven't encountered newly limber middle-aged people everywhere singing the praises of a transformative online course, this is why. You can only ask so much. People want to be more flexible in theory, but that isn't the only thing they want! Yet far too many "experts" take a brute-force approach. They advise us under the assumption that we have limitless time and energy to pursue the results they promise. It ain't so.

Paracelsus's full maxim ran as follows: "All things are poison," he wrote, "and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison." Anyone can get six-pack abs living on spinach and chicken breasts and spending half their days at the gym. We turn to experts for leverage: How much more efficient will you make me? If flexibility requires three five-minute stretches a day on top of everything else I do to maintain fitness, you're offloading the challenge of making this work on me, your customer.

Holding a stretch forever will do something. The better question is, what's the minimum effective dose? What's the simplest path to getting more flexible daily, even if only a little? Consistent progress achieved realistically is worth far more than an "ideal" program that no one will ever follow.

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