Below is a reprint of my interview with Thrive Global. You can read the original version here.
Healthy mindset. You first need to be in the right mindset to positively impact your lifespan. Optimism and a feeling of empowerment — that you can impact your longevity; a care for achieving a long life; a love for oneself; and a feeling of self worth are all critical aspects of a mindset that’s conducive to successfully taking the necessary steps to improving your healthspan and lifespan.
The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chris Mirabile, Founder and CEO of NOVOS.
Chris Mirabile is a longevity researcher and Founder & CEO of consumer longevity biotech, NOVOS. Chris graduated from NYU Stern School of Business and later won their business plan competition with his startup company, Hotlist, a location-based social network that scaled to 220 million people’s social plans. Chris has launched multiple successful technology ventures, and has advised biotech startups and NYU Langone Hospital. Chris has researched and integrated longevity practices and interventions into his life for more than ten years, has achieved a biological age 13.6 years younger than his chronological age, and according to epigenetic tests like DunedInPACE, is aging 31% slower biologically than chronologically.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
My interest in health began when I picked up an issue of Men’s Health magazine when I was 12. I began a daily exercise routine and began watching my diet — not your typical 12 year old’s daily routine! But when I was 16, I was stopped in my tracks when I had a seizure, which was later found to have been caused by a brain tumor. My interest in health rapidly evolved into a passion for biology, and a desire to never be on a hospital bed again, contemplating my mortality.
Having nearly lost my life, I resolved to be an entrepreneur; I wanted to chart my course and make as big of an impact on people as I could. My entrepreneurial career started while attending NYU Stern for undergrad and winning their grad school’s business plan competition with a tech social network called Hotlist. All the while, my passion for health and biology remained strong, as I set out to achieve fitness goals, experiment with supplements, and dig into my genetics.
Almost a decade ago, I learned about longevity medicine after reading a seminal paper in the journal Cell, which identified nine hallmarks of aging. I enthusiastically dug in and came to realize that aging — and diseases of aging — are not inevitable, and there were biological processes that could be addressed to slow down and potentially even reverse aging.
I spent years reading the research, self experimenting with lifestyle changes (diet, supplements, sleep hacks, etc.) until it was apparent to me that there was a lot of untapped potential in the consumer longevity space — things that I could do to improve my longevity, that of my loved ones, and for the community at large. After discussing my ideas and gaining validation from world renowned longevity scientists at institutions like Harvard Medical School and MIT, my vision solidified and I launched NOVOS.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
My first step into entrepreneurship turned out to be a leap. I was one year out of college, working in Private Equity on Park Avenue in New York City while simultaneously launching a social network later known as Hotlist. After winning NYU’s business plan competition, I decided to quit the job, forgo the lucrative salary, and work on building the network I envisioned. Lesson: It takes much longer and involves more financial opportunity costs for an entrepreneur to get a business off the ground than most might think.
Months later, while raising a round of venture capital, the investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the funding environment froze. This was just a preview of the challenges I would face while building and scaling Hotlist. Lesson: The entire global marketplace can change in less than a day and your assumptions can be torn apart. Always be prepared to adapt.
We eventually raised that round of financing and hired a team. But going from the first 1,000 weekly active users to the first 10,000 was no easy task and took us far more time than we expected. Lesson: Acquiring early adopters is the easy part; it only gets harder from there. Experimentation and perseverance are key!
As we scaled our user base and built out our technology, we realized how costly it would be to operate at scale. We resisted it for a long time, but eventually had to deprecate most of our code and rebuild our system from scratch — something that we didn’t have in our plans. This meant stagnation on our feature development and progress. Lesson: Whether technical or physical “ops,” this less “sexy” aspect of the business cannot go neglected. Delaying the inevitable will end up costing you in the long run.
Eventually, we scaled our network to hundreds of millions of people’s social plans. This was fantastic! Except that even with us rebuilding our code base, our server costs were excessively high for a pre-revenue business. Although that was the conventional wisdom at the time — build up the user base and the revenue will follow — it put us in a precarious position, financially backed up against the wall. Lesson: Unless you have years of financial runway, focus on the business model and revenue generation sooner.
We were approached by multinational tech companies for an acquisition. One company made an offer and began due diligence. In the end, that company decided to step away from the deal to try to build a copycat of our product. We didn’t have the financial runway to keep the business running and were forced to fold. Lesson: Do everything you can to avoid ever being low on cash; negotiate on corporate finance transactions while you’re in a position of financial security.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother and father were always behind me throughout my entrepreneurial journey, for my successes and failures. There were times when I expected they would push back or urge me to get a traditional job that was less risky and more stable, but for the most part, they didn’t. They knew I was an entrepreneur at my core, and whenever I resolved to start a new venture, they enthusiastically supported me.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The three character traits that have been most instrumental to my success are having a vision and the drive to achieve it, conscientiousness, and perseverance.
I often close my eyes and envision what an ideal future would look like when my venture successfully resolves the problems we’re addressing. Envisioning that future, whether five or ten years from now, doesn’t require me to know how I will achieve it at that moment, but it does require me to identify a problem and envision what a realistic solution would look like. Meditating on that ideal outcome provides me with a northstar to work towards in my day-to-day, which fuels my drive, and enables me to lead a team towards achieving that vision.
Being conscientious connects my day-to-day output with that long-term vision. For some people, it may be easy to construct a vision, but difficult to put the time, care, and discipline into its execution, day after day, for years on end. I find that making a point to be conscientious not only improves the quality and consistency of my output, but also sets a standard for the rest of my team that results in their best-in-class performance.
Ultimately, it’s necessary to persevere. Approaching two decades as a founder, I’ve been forced to stare failure in the eyes, be humbled, and nonetheless stand back up to start over again. Going through these experiences, as difficult as they may be, sets everything in context: no challenge, failure or success is too big. Be resilient and take everything in stride; it’s a long journey.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
As mentioned earlier, my passion for health began when I was 12 years old. Having survived a life-threatening brain tumor, that passion grew deep. Many people have a career or academic interest in health and biology. I not only have that, but I’m extremely disciplined in self-experimentation, data collection and making constant improvements, informed by science and my results.
To that point, as I share on my personal blog at SlowMyAge.com, I’ve been able to achieve a biological age that is more than ⅓ lower than my chronological age, according to multiple epigenetic clocks. According to Columbia University’s and Duke University’s DunedinPACE epigenetic clock — arguably the most accurate method to measure one’s pace of biological aging — I’m aging 31% more slowly than the average person. And my telomeres, the DNA-protective end caps of our chromosomes that get shorter as we age, are the length of a typical 7-year-old’s. The highly regarded laboratory that ran the analysis on my blood sample has said they have never seen such dramatic results.
I’ve been able to achieve this by always keeping a close eye on the latest research; discussing that research with the scientists to uncover deeper truths beyond what’s presented in the papers; instituting healthy, fact-based habits into my daily routine; and continually tracking biometrics to figure out what actually works.
I’ve launched NOVOS to simplify what I do for others who lack the time, patience or passion for health and longevity that I have. Nonetheless, who wouldn’t like to be younger for longer? My contribution is making more people aware of the science behind the little known but rapidly growing field of human longevity, how to slow down their biological aging based on the latest science, and to provide them with the tools in the form of knowledge, advanced biological age testing, and patent-pending formulations to make it much easier and more accessible to achieve. As a Public Benefit Corporation, we’re on a mission to add more than a billion years of healthy life to humanity — and we’re well on our way to doing so!
Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.
My brush with mortality from a brain tumor at an early age gave me a glimpse of what it would be like to be old, lying in a hospital bed from a debilitating illness and I didn’t like what I saw. I set out to set physical achievements that were symbolic of health. I ranked seventh in the U.S. Marine Corps’ national fitness championship event around a year after my surgery; while in college at NYU Stern, I achieved the University’s record for the most dips in one set; at 30, I completed more pull-ups in 60 seconds than the Guinness World Record; and more recently, I elevated myself to the equivalent of professional powerlifting with a 300% bodyweight deadlift.
Through it all, I had the unshakable belief that I could achieve greater health than ever, no matter the age. Yet all the deadlifting in the world couldn’t help me muscle my way out of the midday lethargy I had been feeling — despite getting plenty of sleep, incorporating intermittent fasting, and eating a vegetable-dense, low-carb diet that had enabled improvements in my skin, GI tract, sleep, and mood. For years this lethargy persisted, and no doctor had answers.
I decided it was up to me to play detective. Over the next five years, I investigated my symptoms, eventually learning I had a nut sensitivity and was borderline anemic — cue the brain fog and lethargy.
Meanwhile, I discovered I have the genetic polymorphism MTHFR C677T (it’s just as much of a drag as it sounds). Essentially, this common DNA variant — which a large percentage of the population unknowingly has — reduces my ability to methylate. Methylation is a bodily process that’s key for detoxification, energy, brain, mood, immunity, heart, and other functions. No wonder I felt off.
For me, the solution was to supplement with higher levels of methylated forms of B vitamins and increase my intake of foods containing methyl donors, like choline from egg yolks. I needed to become my own advocate for my health, which led me to study biology and avoidance of disease. In order to live as healthy and disease-free as possible, I first needed to dig deeper to discover the root causes of my symptoms, and then into the biology of aging, the number one cause of chronic illnesses. After almost a decade of research and self-experimentation, I wanted to help others achieve a higher state of health while skipping the years of time-intensive study and experimentation I had invested.
That awareness, combined with my early near-death experience, drove me to my launch of NOVOS, after assembling a Scientific Advisory Board of incredibly smart and passionate longevity scientists and geneticists who hail from Harvard, MIT, and The Salk Institute. Combining my lifelong fervor for optimal health and avoiding illness with their expertise in the biology of human longevity, we’ve built the first company to offer supplements that address the 10 root causes of aging and promote longevity (as well as skin health, cognition, and energy!), tests that assess a person’s biological age, plus a database of scientifically referenced knowledge on our blog. At NOVOS, our singular focus is finding solutions to help people live younger for longer while providing them with shortcuts to learn about and counteract the causes of aging.
Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Healthy mindset. You first need to be in the right mindset to positively impact your lifespan. Optimism and a feeling of empowerment — that you can impact your longevity; a care for achieving a long life; a love for oneself; and a feeling of self worth are all critical aspects of a mindset that’s conducive to successfully taking the necessary steps to improving your healthspan and lifespan.
- Knowledge and comprehension of pros / cons of lifestyle decisions. This comes down to education. Learning what science has found will improve healthspan and lifespan, from the perspective of longevity science. That is, don’t look to general health gurus or those with agendas other than longevity (e.g., weight loss, muscle building, social causes, etc.), but rather, the authorities in maximizing human healthspan and lifespan.
- Healthy diet — composition, quantity and timing. To the previous point about knowledge, a fundamental aspect is understanding how to eat. Not only what and what not to eat, but how much and when to eat it. Researchers have found that two people could eat identical meals throughout the day, but depending on what time of day and for how many hours they don’t eat, they could have radically different health outcomes in terms of metabolic factors like blood glucose, triglycerides and body weight — all of which you want to keep low.
- Healthy lifestyle — sleep, activity, alcohol, psychology, etc. It’s important to understand how sleep (or lack thereof) can impact your short-term metabolic health and long-term propensity for neurodegenerative disorders and cardiovascular disease — as well as how to significantly improve yours. Learn about what forms and intensities of exercise are best for longevity (hint: it’s not about maximal performance or building the biggest muscles!). Realize the impact that even just one glass of alcohol can have on your health before deciding if you’d like to indulge — and if you do, how you can minimize the damage it causes.
- Supplementation. Evolution doesn’t care for us to live long lives. All that evolution cares about is for us to survive long enough to procreate and evolve the species — not for us to live into our 80s, 90s or 100s. For that reason, in order to maximize our lifespans and healthspans, we need to supplement beyond what we would otherwise get in our diets, no matter how healthy they may be. This includes general health supplements (vitamins and minerals, necessary to avoid short-term illnesses) and longevity health supplements, like NOVOS.
As a Public Benefit Corporation, NOVOS shares all of the knowledge you need about these topics and more on its blog.
Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?
First and foremost, as emphasized by Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, it’s critical to fill your life with purpose. This can be in the form of work, a personal passion, vigor for life itself or relationships, but having purpose will fuel you to live each day and to derive the most you’re able to from life.
To the point about relationships, having healthy ones is critically important, and is even found to extend lifespan. It’s not a matter of the quantity, but rather the quality: even just three solid relationships is all it takes to fill your life with joy and reduce your chances for premature death twofold.
Mindset is also deeply important. There’s no room for a victim mindset, or avoidance of challenges and difficulties. As we see throughout nature and biology in the form of hormesis, and as emphasized by Nassim Taleb in his book, Antifragile, challenges make us stronger, as long as we make the conscious decision to have an empowered mindset, eager to take on the challenge and to grow in the process.
Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?
Scientists have found that your lifespan is only 20–30% based on your genetics, or “nature.” The remaining 70–80% is “nurture,” or put another way, a choice firmly within your control. (It is only for the centenarians [100+] and supercentenarians [110+ years old] that a greater percentage applies to genetics, and even for them a large majority is based on lifestyle).
This is because there are many biological pathways that can impact your longevity, which are modulated by your lifestyle decisions. For example, a biological pathway known as mTOR is known to accelerate aging when it’s activated too much for too long. Eating a high animal protein diet, overeating, and not having prolonged periods of time without food, are each known to activate mTOR, which can accelerate aging. On the other hand, integrating fasts into your routine, minimizing animal protein to a healthy level (no need to completely eliminate it), and not overeating will not only reduce your mTOR levels, but will also further activate another biological pathway known as AMPK, which enables your cells to better absorb glucose and fats, which they in turn utilize for energy instead of letting them cause damage to tissues and organs by hanging out in your blood.
Further, specific genes can be turned on and off, based on your lifestyle. This process is known as epigenetics, and is how your body and cells react to stimuli like the foods you eat, when you eat them, your physical activity (e.g., if you exercise, genes turn on to build muscle and strengthen your heart), sleep, supplements, drugs including alcohol, etc. There are well-known practices you can follow that will improve your epigenome so that it is pro-longevity, and others that will negatively impact your healthspan and lifespan, which you can learn about on the NOVOS blog.
Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?
I don’t like feeling sad, or resentful, angry, helpless, or any other negative emotional state for that matter. So, I’ve made a point to think about those states from a meta perspective — that is, observing them from the outside — and rationally thinking that I want to get out of the state as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean I don’t give myself time to experience these emotions, it just means that I actively contemplate the value of letting go of them as fast as I healthily can.
Once I do, I try to focus on the lessons I can learn from the experience. Perhaps it’s understanding why the challenge occurred in the first place and if there is any way I can prevent it from happening in the future. Or, maybe it’s understanding how this changes my mental model of reality and how I want to function in it (this was the case when I was recovering from my brain surgery, as well as after Hotlist).
Shifting my mindset from strong emotions to pragmatic reasoning takes me out of an unproductive mindset that only gets worse the longer I’m in it, into a productive, positive one that’s focused on identifying a positive derivative and with a focus on an improved future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
It’s hard for me to think of an absolute favorite, but one quote that comes to mind is by Jiddu Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
This quote represents a lot to me, as an entrepreneur (society is in need of something that I can work hard to deliver), a health-focused founder (our society is literally sick, with the lifestyles and products we’ve fallen victim to), and a human (challenge conventional ways of thinking; discover my own truth, not what I’m told). This perspective encapsulates a lot of lessons I’ve gradually learned over the years, and have shaped me into the person that I am today.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It has begun and it’s what NOVOS represents: the idea that aging is not inevitable and that science can slow, halt, and even reverse it. It has been proven in experiments, and one day, we’ll look at the improvements we’ve made to people’s healthspans and lifespans similarly to how we now look at how antibiotics have enabled people to live much longer, healthier lives.
NOVOS is the authoritative source for human longevity, transferring the scientific insights and discoveries made in the lab directly to consumers in a comprehensive manner that’s suitable for people to integrate into their daily routines. This will all contribute to our vision of adding more than 1 billion years of life to humanity.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
NovosLabs.com, #novoslabs, #youngerforlonger, SlowMyAge.com, #slowmyage
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.